The UNESCO Oration

Founded in 2013, the UNESCO Chair Oration is an annual lecture delivered by a preeminent thinker in social justice, cultural diversity and human rights.


Past Speakers

During the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to postpone the UNESCO Oration.

Portrait of Marcia Langton

2019: Professor Marcia Langton AM

Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies, Professor Marcia Langton AM, delivered a speech entitled ‘Empowering Indigenous Australians’, on Wednesday 13 November 2019.

▶ Watch a recording of the 2019 UNESCO Oration given by Marcia Langton

“Without meaningful constitutional recognition, Australia remains trapped in Deakin’s idea of “Australia for the White Man.” This idea is deeply ingrained in Australian life and we see it played out in most encounters between government officials and Indigenous people. It underlies the life-threatening disadvantages we face.”

Portrait of Marcia Langton

2018: Professor Raimond Gaita

Award-winning author and moral philosopher Professor Raimond Gaita delivered the Oration titled ‘Different Ways of Saying “We”’ on Wednesday 28 November 2018.

▶ Watch a recording of the 2018 UNESCO Oration given by Raimond Gaita

“It’s in conversation … that we discover, never alone but always together, what it means really to listen and what tone may properly be taken … No one can say what would happen when, through such conversations, we understood better how Aboriginal people experience the crimes committed against them and therefore how that understanding should inform the ways Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people will be able to say ‘we’, truthfully and justly.”

Portrait of Marcia Langton

2017: Professor Tim Soutphommasane

Race Discrimination Commissioner, Professor Tim Soutphommasane, delivered a speech entitled ‘Middle Class Racism’.

▶ Watch a recording of the 2017 UNESCO oration given by Tim Soutphomassane

“As a general principle we must be guided by the idea that it’s not enough to be non-racist, we’ve also got to be anti-racist … we must also be prepared to listen to the lived experience of those who experience racism. Too often those who have the courage to respond to prejudice are made to feel that they are the ones who have done wrong. We must not indulge the idea that responding to racism creates more division than the perpetration of racism.”

Portrait of Marcia Langton

2016: Arnold Zable

Acclaimed writer and human rights activist, Arnold Zable, delivered a speech entitled, “Here is Where We Meet”.

▶ Watch a recording of the 2016 UNESCO oration given by Arnold Zable

“We are a nation of immigrants and Indigenous people – a new world with an ancient past. These are our two grand narratives. The inclusive tale of who we are. First Nations peoples and the people of many nations bearing stories from many worlds”.

Portrait of Rigoberta Menchu

2015: Nobel Laureate Dr Rigoberta Menchú

Renowned social activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr Rigoberta Menchú, delivered her speech ”Social Justice and the Global Perspective”.

▶ Watch a recording of the 2015 UNESCO oration given by Rigoberta Menchú

“Complimentarity means nobody can solve problems by themselves … and this gives birth to a code, the code of respect … And little by little it teaches us that we are not the only children of the planet. There are many creatures that are with us permanently. We don’t hear them, why? Because we don’t know how to listen. If we start to build a practice of listening, we’ll be able to find that the solution is very close to us. We will listen and we will start to make decisions with our ears. We won’t only make decisions with our eyes.”

Portrait of Rigoberta Menchu

2014: Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs delivered a speech on ‘The ethical dimensions of public policy making‘ on Tuesday 21 October 2014.

Portrait of Rigoberta Menchu

2013: Alfred Deakin Professor Fethi Mansouri

Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair for Comparative Research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, Professor Fethi Mansouri delivered the inaugural UNESCO Oration.