Australian Prime Ministers: Speech is of Time

Old Parliament House is proud to sponsor the National History Challenge in 2007.

Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity. —Thomas Carlyle

The Challenge is open to all students from years 9 to 12. It is a research-based competition for students giving them an exciting opportunity to work as historians, investigating their community and exploring their own past. It emphasises and rewards quality research, the use of community resources and effective presentation.

This year’s theme is ‘Lessons from the Past’ and Old Parliament House is sponsoring the special category of Australian Prime Ministers: Speech is of Time. The focus for this category is the power and influence of political speeches delivered by different Australian Prime Ministers over the twentieth century. Students are invited to undertake a research essay on one of the speeches provided on this website.

Great speeches stand the test of time. They are important milestones or markers of Australian history that tell us the stories of our past and present.

Our own Prime Ministers are remembered for their speeches that have made an impact on generations of Australian citizens through a variety of issues, views and beliefs that touch on important questions of politics. The famous radio broadcast by Prime Minister Robert Menzies in September 1939, in which he announced that ‘Australia is at war’, changed the lives of an entire generation. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s ceremonial speech of August 1975, granting Aboriginal elder Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people a land lease in the Northern Territory, marked a significant turning point in Indigenous affairs. A host of other remarkable speeches addressing the Australian economy, international relations, wartime conscription, racial discrimination, health, social welfare, and so on, have shaped our views and influenced the national course of events.

The facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context.

-E H Carr

The Museum of Australian Democracy’s Australian Prime Ministers Centre sponsored this category in the 2007 National History Challenge. Find out more about the latest National History Challenge.

The National History Challenge is a research-based competition for students. More information is available on the National History Challenge site.