University of Sydney
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is best known for its work on language and semiosis in the service of power. Its deconstruction tends to focus on ideologically driven discrimination, with respect to gender, ethnicity, class and related social variables. In this paper I suggest a complementary perspective, on language and semiosis, which functions to make the world a better place – which I refer to as Positive Discourse Analysis (PDA). Three examples of sites for analysis of this kind are introduced, including genre renovation, evaluative language, and narrative in the context of post-colonial relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
KEY WORDS: Critical discourse analysis (CDA), discourse analysis, functional linguistics, genesis, ideology.
El Análisis Crítico del Discurso es conocido por su énfasis en el lenguaje y en la semiosis al servicio del poder. Su deconstrucción tiende a centrarse en la discriminación ejercida ideológicamente, con respecto a género, pertenencia étnica, clase y variables sociales relacionadas. Este artículo sugiere una perspectiva complementaria, basada en el lenguaje y en la semiosis, que hace del mundo un lugar mejor – a la cual me refiero como Análisis Positivo del Discurso. Se analizan tres ejemplos de este tipo: renovación de género, lenguaje evaluativo y narrativa en el contexto de las relaciones poscoloniales entre los australianos indígenas y no-indígenas.
PALABRAS CLAVE: Análisis crítico del discurso, análisis del discurso, lingüística funcional, génesis, ideología.
1. Unsung Heroes
As a card carrying member of Sydney's oft derided but ever so politically correct ‘café latte’ set I rose one Saturday morning, assumed my traditional ‘black arm-band’ view of history and began browsing through my week-end paper.1 As usual it included a column featuring a life-style questionnaire, focussing on one or another member of the latte set, by way of keeping its members properly aligned. Eagerly, I read on, checking my values against those of a great success story – a primary school teacher who became a millionaire when his punk rock band, the Cockroaches, made themselves over as the Wiggles, and constructed a lucrative new kiddie rock audience among pre-school children. His favourite song [...], favourite book [...], favourite film [...], favourite Sunday breakfast [...], favourite spot on Saturday night [...]; angry about [...] and so on. As usual these days, I was losing touch with even the margins of cool, age inexorably excluding me. Then a body blow: “Who do you find inspiring? – Father Paul Glynn for his work on reconciliation between WWII veterans and the Japanese people.” Arm-band in tatters, latte cold, I wondered, “Who on earth is Paul Glynn? Never heard of him.” This paper wonders why not (Anthonissen; Fairclough & Wodak).
2. CDA Ir/Realis
Which brings us to the two faces of critical discourse analysis (hereafter CDA). One face, and the better established of the two, I'll refer to as CDA realis. This is the deconstructive face of CDA, and is concerned with exposing language and attendant semiosis in the service of power. It has its roots in the critical linguistics of East Anglia (canonically in say Trew), and continues to develop thoughout the rich analyses in say Fairclough (Power, Awareness, Discourse, Analysis, Media) or Wodak. In May 1998, for example, Australia celebrated its first ‘Sorry Day’ on the first anniversary of the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Australia's churl of a Prime Minister, John Howard, had refused (and continues to refuse) to apologise on behalf of the nation for the ‘stolen generations’, and Sorry Day represents a grass roots populist movement in support of reconciliation among Indigenous and migrant2 Australians. I attended a very moving assembly at my son's primary school and decided to focus my second year functional grammar lectures for that week on the apology theme. Accordingly I took a text encoding Howard’s refusal to apologise:
 The Prime Minister acknowledges and thanks you for your support for his personal apology to Indigenous people affected by past practices of separating Indigenous children from their families. However, the government does not support an official national apology. Such an apology could imply that present generations are in some way responsible and accountable for the actions of earlier generations, actions that were sanctioned by the laws of the time, and that were believed to be in the best interests of the children concerned. (Senator Herron writing on behalf of the Prime Minister, John Howard, to Father Brennan in late 1997)
And I rewrote it, unpacking ideational metaphors (its nominalisations), following the principles I was teaching from Halliday:
[1’] (unpacking ideational metaphors) The Prime Minister received your message and he thanks you because you supported him because he apologised personally to Indigenous people because government officials took their children away from them. But the government will not apologise officially on behalf of the nation, because if it does, then people might argue that Indigenous people can blame present generations and make them explain why government officials took their children away; but they took them away because the laws of the time approved and allowed them to take them away, and the government thought the children would benefit more if the officials took them away than if they left them with their families.
Among other things I pointed out to the class that there were only 4 Agents (causers) in 1, none of them specific individuals:
– [...] affected by past practices of separating Indigenous children [...] from their families.
– the government does not support [...]
– Such an apology could imply [...]
– [...] were sanctioned by the laws of the time [...]
Whereas in 1’ there are 9 Agents, all but one of them people acting on other people (van Leeuwen; Martin & Veel):
– because government officials took their children away from them.
– that Indigenous people can blame present generations
– and Indigenous people make them explain
– why government officials took their children away;
– but they took them away
– and the laws of the time allowed them to take them away,
– if the officials took them away
– than if they left them with their families
And we went on to consider the effects of Howard's ideational metaphors on arguability (choice of Subject) and information flow (Theme). Language in the service of power – that seemed clear. And Halliday’s grammar served us well as a resource for tracking the materialisation of power in language and discussing whose interests were being served.
By the same token however, I felt reluctant to demonise Howard's language as disordered, simply because of the nominalisations it deployed. Since the same resources, in the service of other interests, might result in a discourse I would champion, rather than deride. Consider for example the following attack on my mean-spirited churl:
 On taking office the Howard government mounted a cynical and sustained campaign to discredit the institutions of Aboriginal welfare and the processes of self-determination and reconciliation, culminating in Howard's shameful refusal to apologise on behalf of the nation for the policies of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their parents. The Prime Minister invited the outpouring of racial hatred through the calculated persecution of the “Aboriginal industry” and his attacks on the “black arm-band view” of Australian history. (Hamilton , C. Guardian Weekly, June 21 1998, 12)
This text is just as nominalised as Howard's, with the same kinds of repercussions for agency, arguability and information flow (see Martin “Reading” for discussion of CDA in relation to systemic functional linguistics, hereafter SFL). But from my reading position, the texture puts Howard exactly where he belongs as a conniving agent of disunity and racist sentiment. I wanted, in other words, to caution my students against the ‘X-Files’ fallacy – against the notion that the ‘truth is out there’ and that unpacking grammatical metaphors will expose what is really going on. Concrete discourse is just as ideologically positioned as nominalised discourse; neither discourse is intrinsically more disordered than the other. And truth is something meaning fashions, in specific interests; it does not exist, outside of discourse, as something we can measure texts against. Wiser perhaps to read nominalisation more as a resource for making interested truths (Kress “Design”), less as a tool for distorting reality.
Dangers such as these aside, CDA realis continues to make an immense contribution to studies of the interestedness of discourse, across contexts where inequalities of generation, gender, ethnicity and class disrupt humanity. By bringing politics to bear on the micro-semiotic choices of texts from various spheres of life it has done a great deal to open up the field of social linguistics, and transgress the boundaries around levels of language erected and policed by formalism by way of insulating language from ideology – the linguist by day, anarcho-syndicalist by night dichotomies designed by formalists to rationalise the depoliticisation of a discipline (Beaugrande; Martin “Linguistics”).
The complementary face of CDA I'll refer to as CDA irrealis, since I judge it has realised much less of its potential. This face is oriented not so much to deconstruction as to constructive social action. Caldas-Coulthard & Coulthard present this irrealis face in relation to CDA realis as follows (emphasis added):
Discourse is a major instrument of power and control and Critical Discourse Analysts [...] feel that it is indeed part of their professional role to investigate, reveal and clarify how power and discriminatory value are inscribed in and mediated through the linguistic system. CDA is essentially political in intent with its practitioners acting upon the world in order to transform it and thereby help create a world where people are not discriminated against because of sex, colour, creed, age or social class. (Caldas-Coulthard & Coulthard xi)
Kress takes a more transformative position, arguing for a move from deconstructive to productive activity (emphasis added):
Critical language projects have remained just that: critiques of texts and of the social practices implied by or realised in those texts, uncovering, revealing, inequitable, dehumanising and deleterious states of affairs [...] if critical language projects were to develop apt, plausible theories of this domain, they would be able to move from critical reading, from analysis, from deconstructive activity, to productive activity [...] CL or CDA have not offered (productive) accounts of alternative forms of social organisation, nor of social subjects, other than by implication. (Kress, “Resources” 15-16)
And he develops the notion of ‘design’ as a critique of critique, advocating an irrealis stance as more appropriate to contemporary agendas:
It is now essential to offer a critique of critique, by showing it to be a response to particular circumstances in a particular period, showing it as a historical phenomenon and not as naturally there [...] These circumstances call for a new goal in textual (and (perhaps) other practice): not of critique but of Design [...] While critique looked at the present through the means of past production, Design shapes the future through deliberate deployment of representational resources in the designer's interest [...] The task of the critic is to perform analysis on an agenda of someone else's design. As a result a considerable degree of inertia is built into this process [...] Design sets aside past agendas, and treats them and their products as resources setting an agenda of future aims, and in assembling means and resources for implementing that. (Kress, “Design” 160-161)
For my part, I prefer theoretical complementarity to contradiction, and evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary rhetoric, so want to be understood as flagging a yin/yang perspective here – deconstructive and constructive activity are both required. But we need to consider just how much work remains to be done studying the subversion of power and developing understandings which can energise social change. I do suggest that the main focus of CDA work has been on hegemony – on exposing power as it naturalises itself in discourse and thus feeling in some sense part of the struggle against it (something we might naively posit as a trajectory of analysis flowing through Marx, Gramsci and Althusser). Janks & Ivanic's salutary work on emancipatory discourse strikes me as the exception, confirming this trend. And I am arguing that we need a complementary focus on community, taking into account how people get together and make room for themselves in the world – in ways that redistribute power without necessarily struggling against it (Gore's discussion of Foucault in relation to notions of empowerment in critical and feminist pedagogy is relevant here, especially in relation to the de-demonisation of power). Figure 1 outlines the complementary research foci on hegemony and community I have in mind – which could facilitate work on deconstructive alongside productive activity.
Figure 1. Complementary research foci in relation to ideology and power
What concerns me most in arguing for constructive research is to undo an apparently pathological disjunction in 20th century social science and humanities research which systematically elides the study of social processes which make the world a better place in favour of critique of processes which disempower and oppress. So instead of heartening accounts of progress we get discouraging analyses of oppression. To my mind, this means that when we come to design better futures we simply don't have enough information to move forward. Deconstruction is helpful, but not enough on its own – at least that is my experience in educational linguistics where a lot of guess-work had to go into designing possible worlds in the absence of helpful accounts of inspiring initiatives undertaken by others (Martin “Model”, “Genre”, “Linguistics”, “Design”). The lack of positive discourse analysis (PDA) cripples our understanding of how change happens, for the better, across a range of sites – how feminists re-make gender relations in our world, how Indigenous people overcome their colonial heritage, how migrants renovate their new environs and so on. And this hampers design, and perhaps even discourages it since analysts would rather tell us how struggle was undone than how freedoms were won.
Getting positive of course depends on taking a stand, and positively valuing some aspect of social change – putting our values on the line in a way that is not demanded by critique. This sets us up to seem naïve, or even less than honest about the reading position we are valuing from. But critique is usually undertaken from comparable high moral ground; it cannot escape the values of its readings, however implicitly it encodes them. At the meeting where I first presented this paper, my own position was glossed as liberal humanist – not quite left enough perhaps? But for the sites I consider in this paper, liberal humanist will serve.
In the following sections I want to exemplify the kind of positive discourse analysis I have in mind, without trying in anyway to circumscribe its scope. This involves looking at discourses we don't typically associate with CDA, and in addition considering whether new kinds of analysis are required by consideration of these sites. In particular I'll look voice, feeling and narrative in discourses around the theme of reconciliation with Indigenous people in Australia.
3. Voice (New Multimodal Genres as New Forms of Legitimation)
The first exemplar I would like to flag is the emergence of new genres as agents of social change. The text I have in mind is the remarkable report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Bringing Them Home (noted above). Robert Manne outlines the scope of the ‘stolen generations’ issue as follows:
Bringing Them Home suggests that between one in three and one in ten Aboriginal children were separated from their mothers [...] All one can say for certain is that in the seventy or so years in question tens of thousands of babies and children were removed. Yet there is an even more extraordinary fact than this. Until the last year or so most non-Aboriginal Australians either did not know or were at best dimly aware that for some seventy years Australian governments had been involved in a more or less routine practice of part-Aboriginal child removal. This was something almost every Aborigine understood. (Manne 53)
What I find remarkable about this government report is the way in which it gives voice to Indigenous Australians, including those stolen from their families who contributed their stories to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (Martin “The ‘Other’”, “Difference”). The strategy it uses to achieve this is essentially a multimodal one (McGregor; Kress & van Leeuwen), involving a mix of ‘spoken’ testimony with bureaucratic writing, and in addition a mix of language and photographic image. Pages 90-91 of the report exemplify this strategy. This is the beginning of Part 2, Chapter 6 of the report, which focuses on forced separation in Tasmania. The left-hand page comprises a news clipping, with two quotations from confidential submissions by stolen Aborigines below:3
– We was bought like a market. We was all lined up in white dresses, and they’d come round and pick you out like you was for sale.
– I clearly remember being put in line-ups very fortnight, where prospective foster parents would view the children. I wasn’t quite the child they were looking for.
The newspaper clipping above includes a photograph of 6 young pre-school Aboriginal girls in white dresses, lined up, holding toys. Above the photo is the Heading Homes Are Sought For These Children. Below the photo is the caption: “A group of tiny half-caste and quadroon childrenat the Darwin half-caste home. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Perkins) recently appealed to charitable organisations in Melbourne and Sydney to find homes for the children and to rescue them from being outcasts.” Below the caption, a prospective foster parent has written: “I like the little girl in the centre of the group, but if taken by anyone else, any of the others would do, as long as they are strong.” To clarify this choice, the foster parent has marked an ‘X’ on the chosen child (who is the fairest one in the group).
Figure 1. Multimodal preface to Chapter 6, Part 2 of Bringing Them Home
Figure 2. Bureaucratic discourse following the multimodal preface to Chapter 6,
Part 2 of Bringing Them Home
The next page begins with a quotation from a Tasmanian government official and then unfolds through a series of headings (Policies and practices, The colonial period, Removal to Flinders Island) in bureaucratic mode. The language is heavily nominalised (e.g. the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families), and includes the lists, tables, graphs and maps we have come to expect from a surveillance technology of this order (Martin “Technology”). But this voice is not the only voice in the report; the texture of the genre means that it is in constant negotiation with the voice of Indigenous people. Indeed, from a textual perspective one can argue that Indigenous voices are privileged, since they are regularly made prominent by assuming first position in Parts and Chapters throughout the report (see Martin “Meaning”, “Sense”, for discussion). This foregrounding has the effect of establishing the stance from which the bureaucratese is read, a strategy aligning readers with the victims of this genocide.
Taking into account the ignorance of non-Indigenous Australians noted by Manne above, the effect of this report has been staggering. In May 2000, on the third anniversary of its release, a quarter of a million people marched across the Harbour Bridge in Sydney for reconciliation; shamed by their past, insistent that Howard apologise (an airplane wrote ‘SORRY’ in the sky). Comparable demonstrations took place in other states. One might argue of course that it is hard not to be moved by an issue of this kind – hard for any parent to imagine anything more bestial. But arguing cause and effect is trivial here – it's the semiotic synergy that matters. The Commissioners were charged with uncovering the past and designing future. They took the play of voices round the issue and construed a discourse privileging the heart of the matter – our feelings as we look at and listen to the people we've abused. They took the lead and moved people, evolving a new kind of government report to do so. Heroic stuff; real vision. Inspiring. Instructive. Good on 'em. Their work rewards any amount of positive discourse analysis we spend on it.
4. Feeling (Resources for Re/Alignment)
Where else for PDA? A second site I think has promise is the whole arena of evaluation; Hunston & Thompson provides a useful survey of relevant work in this field. CDA, like the functional linguistics and social semiotics on which it draws, has been relatively weak in this area (Poynton). But as noted above, aligning readers depends as much as empathy as persuasion – on getting people onside as far as shared values are concerned. So the ways in which values are coded in semiosis, and the rhetoric through readers are aligned is crucial (Fuller; Martin “Grace”, “Exchange”).
In essence, what I'm suggesting here is that communities are formed around attitudes to things (Martin “Mourning”). We say how we feel in the expectation that people will empathise, and so align themselves with our feelings. Take for example the accounts provided by Sally Morgan, a noted Indigenous Australian author and painter, of her mother and grandmother being stolen from their homes.
First, stealing Sally Morgan's grandmother:
 Daisy Corunna's Story (1900-1983) Aah, but they were the good old days, then. I never seen days like that ever again. When they took me from the station, I never seen days like that again.
They told my mother I was goin' to get educated. They told all the people I was goin' to school. I thought it'd be good, goin' to school. I thought I'd be somebody real important. My mother wanted me to learn to read and write like white people. Then she wanted me to come back and teach her. There was a lot of older people interested in learnin' how to read and write, then.
Why did they tell my mother that lie? Why do white people tell so many lies? I got nothin' out of their promises. My mother wouldn't have let me go just to work. God will make them pay for their lies. He's got people like that under the whip. They should have told my mother the truth. She thought I was coming back.
When I left, I was cryin', all the people were cryin', my mother was cryin' and beatin' her head. Lily was cryin'. I called, ‘Mum, Mum, Mum!’. She said, ‘Don't forget me, Talahue!’
They all thought I was coming back. I thought I'd only be gone a little while. I could hear their wailing for miles and miles. ‘Talahue! Talahue!’ They were singin' out my name, over and over. I couldn't stop cryin'. I kept callin', ‘Mum! Mum!’ (332)
Then stealing Sally Morgan's mum:
 When Gladdie was 'bout three years old, they took her from me. I'd been ‘spectin’ it. Alice told me Gladdie needed an education, so they put her in Parkerville Children's Home. What could I do? I was too frightened to say anythin'. I wanted to keep her with me, she was all I had, but they didn't want her there. Alice said she cost too much to feed, said I was ungrateful. She was wantin' me to give up my own flesh and blood and still feel grateful. Aren't black people allowed to have feelings?
I cried and cried when Alice took her away. Gladdie was too young to understand, she thought she was comin' back. She thought it was a picnic she was goin' on. I ran down to the wild bamboo near the river and I hid and cried and cried and cried. How can a mother lose a child like that? How could she do that to me? I thought of my poor old mother then, they took her Arthur from her, and then they took me. She was broken-hearted, God bless her. (340-341)
In writing her acclaimed My Place, Morgan sets aside years of agonising over her identity (explaining her dark skin as Indian for example) to come out and tell her family's history as she recovered it. Documenting the emotions of her stolen relatives was an important part of the wake-up call for migrant Australians. Explicit realisations of affect have been underlined in texts 2 and 3 above, including descriptions of feelings (frightened, broken-hearted) and emotional behaviour (cryin', wailing). Saying how they feel and expecting people to sympathise is something many Australians take for granted; but Morgan was among the first Indigenous people to talk about these feelings publicly, and to construct a speaking position for her people that could be taken up by others – putting them in a position to invite empathy, about things that previously they might have been too ashamed to speak.
A decade later, Bringing Them Home includes many stories of this kind, including the following recount (on just page 2) of children stolen in the 1960s (when Prime Minister John Howard was a young man):
 So the next thing I remember was that they took is from there and we went to the hospital and I kept asking – because the children were screaming and the little brothers and sisters were just babies of course, and I couldn't move, they were all around me, around my neck and legs, yelling and screaming. I was all upset and I didn't know what to do and I didn't know where we were going. I just thought: well, they're police, they must know what they're doing. I suppose I've got to go with them, they're taking me to see Mum. You know this is what I honestly thought. They kept us in hospital for three days and I kept asking, ‘When are we going to see Mum?’ And no-one told us at this time. And I think on the third or fourth day they piled us in the car and I said, ‘Where are we going?’ And they said, ‘We are going to see your mother.’ But then we turned left to go to the airport and I got a bit panicky about where we were going [...] They got hold of me, you know what I mean, and I got a little baby in my arms and they put us on the plane. And they still told us we were going to see Mum. So I thought she must be wherever they're taking us.
Confidential submission 318, Tasmania: removal from Cape Barren Island, Tasmania, of 8 siblings, in the 1960s. The children were fostered separately. (2)
By way of documenting the kind of response invited by affect of this kind, consider the following recount from Archie Roach's anthem for the stolen generations, and Chris Sitka's reply. First Roach on being taken from his family:
 One dark day on Framingham
Came and didn't give a damn
My mother cried go get their dad
He came running fighting mad
Mother's tears were falling down
Dad shaped up he stood his ground
He said you touch my kids and you fight me
And they took us from our family (Took us away [...])
Then Sitka, on hearing the song:
 A Sorry Business
It was national Sorry Day in Australia last week and Melbourne's main street was closed off to allow us to walk from St Paul's Cathedral to the Town Hall where Uncle Ernie played the anthem of the Stolen generations: “They took my brown skinned baby away” on a gum leaf. We could just catch its amplified strains above the racket of construction work and the rattle of trams [...]
As Archie Roach got up to sing the words of the song Uncle Ernie had played on his gum leaf, he also indicated his anguish at being taken from his parents, and how he had gone on, not to the better life promised at the time by the white authorities, but to face discrimination and destitution. “I've often lived on the streets and gone without a feed for days and on one ever said sorry to me.”
A woman in the audience called out “I'm sorry, Archie.” I cried all the way through his song.
The rhetoric of solidarity is fairly straight forward here. Someone says they felt sad; someone sympathises, perhaps to the point of feeling sad too (as here) – and apologises as part of and/or on behalf of the community responsible for the pain. The notion of apology (saying sorry) takes us to another realm of evaluation dealing with the rights and wrongs of how we behave –beyond emotion to ethical considerations. Some commentators have dealt very harshly with Howard's government in these terms, as does Mike Carleton in text 8 below (judgement underlined). Whatever one makes of Carleton's exasperated tone, here can be no doubt that it is designed to align readers around shared feelings of contempt for Howard's government; as with affect above, it is solidarity, the formation of community, that motivates the evaluation.
 Worse, this is a mean administration, a miserly, mingy, minatory bunch if ever there was one. It has a head but no heart, a brain but no soul. Without generosity of spirit, devoid of compassion, absorbed in narrow self-interest, the Howard Government has no concept of any over-arching duty to articulate the aspirations of the governed and to lead them, with some hope, to a happier and more complete nationhood. If the polls slump, how easy it is to play the Hansonite politics of greed and envy, to send in the bovver brigade: Herron to cosh the boongs, Tony Abbott to drop-kick the unemployed, Jocelyn Newman to savage these on social welfare.
This is not government, it is mere management, a very different thing, and it is what will do for them in the end. A cold and bloodless lot, their veins run with piss and vinegar. (Carleton 38)
The interplay of affect and judgement underlies more complicated rhetoric, such as that deployed by Howard's predecessor, Paul Keating, in his famous Redfern Park speech on December 10 1992, at the Australian Launch of the International Year for the World's Indigenous People.
 [...] It begins, I think, with that act of recognition
Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.
We brought the diseases. The alcohol.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice.
And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.
With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.
We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?
As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.
If we needed a reminder of this, we received it this year.
The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity the past lives on inequality, racism and injustice.
In the prejudice and ignorance of non-Aboriginal Australians, and in the demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt.
Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need.
Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.
I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit.
All of us.
Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common we will see the things which must be done – the practical things.
There is something of this in the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
The Council's mission is to forge a new partnership built on justice and equity and an appreciation of the heritage of Australia's Indigenous people.
In the abstract those terms are meaningless.
We have to give meaning to “justice” and “equity” – and, as I have said several times this year, we will only give them meaning when we commit ourselves to achieving concrete results [...] (Keating)
Here Keating moves from emotion (how we feel – the most basic human response, enter into their hearts, how would I feel) to ethics (how we behave – degraded, inequality, racism, injustice, prejudice, ignorance):
With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?
As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us [...] The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity that the past lives on in inequality, racism and injustice. In the prejudice and ignorance of non-Aboriginal Australians, and in the demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
And from ethics (guilt) to a third realm of evaluation, appreciation (what we have in common, partnership), where questions of balance and harmony come to the fore:
For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt. Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need. Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.
I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit. All of us. Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common we will see the things which must be done – the practical things. There is something of this in the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The Council's mission is to forge a new partnership built on justice and equity and an appreciation of the heritage of Australia's Indigenous people.
This takes us once again to the heart of the matter (the aesthetics of diplomacy as it were) – to the practical considerations of reconciling difference in a postcolonial world (Martin “Reconciliation”). Work on evaluation, the play of feelings in discourse and the communities they form is just beginning (see Martin “Exchange” for an outline of the framework deployed). But the potential of this arena of research for positive discourse analysis is instructive (e.g. Iedema, Feez & White; Martin “Meaning”, “Trade”; Coffin; White; Lemke; Hoey). If we can extend this kind of analysis to bring humour into the picture (along the lines of seminal work by Eggins (Eggins & Slade)) we'll have a window on the construction of values and the circulation of power through a discourse which we can use both to monitor and design change – and thus materalise CDA irrealis in the interests of its visions of better worlds.
Finally, I'd like to consider the role of narrative in design, shifting as I do from the stolen generations issue to that of land rights for Indigenous Australians. As with evaluation, narrative has not had a central role to play in CDA realis research; but the political power of narrative closure is something positive discourse analysis cannot afford to ignore. Cranny-Francis' work on popular fiction, for example, underscores the significance of interested narrative renovations in relation to gender relations – new designs that have invigorated feminists reworking of our patriarchal world. Work in functional linguistics (e.g. Martin “Register”; Martin & Plum; Eggins & Slade) highlights the significance of evaluation in narrative closure across a range of story genres – which make their point by aligning values around the social significance of recountable events.
The story I'm concerned with here has to do with what is generally regarded as the beginning of the lands right movement in Australia – the walk-out by Gurindji stockmen at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory in 1966. Vincent Lingiari led the strike, and recounts the initial walk-out in Aboriginal English as follows (as documented by Frank Hardy):
 I am Vincent Lingiari from Wave Hill. That's my proper aboriginal name. Tom Pisher and that Bestey mob called me Tommy Vincent. My people are Gurindji. Who live in Wave Hill area. That Me country [...]
The manager of Wave Hill was Tom Pisher. Bestey man, Tom Pisher. Always when big plant start to go out from station when mustering start, they go out two, maybe three month. Aboriginal men out in bush all time. White ringers come back to station ebry Friday night. That not right. I think to mesel' about that longa time. And think them Bestey mob don't treat Aboriginal native people right way. Some them white fellas play bloody hell with black gin women, leave Aborigine natives out in bush for that. When Aborigine stockmen come back they have to pack up and go away again. That not right. They live here longa time before Cudeba. I have had Gunabida ceremony. Gunabida is the mother of all the Gurindji people, and the corroboree dances tell the story of a man and him son spewed up by the rainbow snake near Wattie Creek in the Dreamtime. I am Kadijeri man of Gurindji people. But Bestey mob don't understand 'bout that.
[...] and there was no proper money for Aborigine people. Maybe six dollar a week, but not ebry week. Two months, maybe three months got 'em money. All gone in store. Maybe a few quid for races or walkabout time and no chilendowmen money.
We get sick and tired of Tom Pisher. So we walk out when Dexter come. We very happy for Dexter to come. He did right for we [...] (Hardy 71-72)
After years of struggle, Gough Whitlam's Labor government gave the Gurindji a pastoral lease for their land in 1975; it wasn't until later in 1986 that the Gurindji finally received inalienable freehold title. Their story has been told in various publications (including Hardy, alongside Middleton; Lingiari; Rose), but is probably best known to migrant Australians through Paul Kelly's popular land rights anthem ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, written and recorded with the Indigenous performer Kev Carmody. Kelly outlines the story for his 1991 recording as follows:
“From Little Things Big Things Grow” is dedicated to Vincent Lingiarri, the Gurindji stockmen and their families who walked off Lord Vestey's cattle station in 1966 thus initiating a land claim that lasted eight years. The Whitlam government handed back much of the Gurindji country in 1974, Gough Whitlam himself pouring dirt into Vincent Lingiarri's cupped hands in a ceremony symbolizing the legal restoration of their lands. From this simple action of walking off in 1966 many consequences flowed. (Paul Kelly & The Messengers)
For their song Kelly and Carmody render the story as a narrative (Kelly 107-108) – with the familiar Orientation, Complication, Evaluation, Resolution and Coda staging labelled below. Note how the chorus is used bound stages, and in addition to divide the Resolution into two phases (Vincent going to Sydney, thence coming home).
From Little Things Big Things Grow (P. Kelly & K. Carmody)
 Gather round people I'll tell you a story
An eight year long story of power and pride
British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiarri
Were opposite men on opposite sides
Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor
From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow
Gurindji were working for nothing but rations
Where once they had gathered the wealth of the land
Daily the pressure got tighter and tighter
Gurindji decided they must make a stand
They picked up their swags and started off walking
At Wattie Creek they sat themselves down
Now it don't sound like much but it sure got tongues talking
Back at the homestead and then in the town (From little things [...])
Vincent said if we fall others are rising (From little things [...])
Then Vincent Lingiarri boarded an aeroplane
Landed in Sydney, big city of lights
And daily he went round softly speaking his story
To all kinds of men from all walks of life
And Vincent sat down with big politicians
This affair they told him is a matter of state
Let us sort it out, your people are hungry
Vincent said no thanks, we know how to wait (From little things [...])
Then Vincent Lingiarri returned in an aeroplane
Back to his country once more to sit down
And he told his people let the stars keep on turning
We have friends in the south, in the cities and towns
Eight years went by, eight long years of waiting
Till one day a tall stranger appeared in the land
And he came with lawyers and he came with great ceremony
And through Vincent's fingers poured a handful of sand. (From little things [...])
That was the story of Vincent Lingiarri
But this is the story of something much more
How power and privilege can not move a people
Who know where they stand and they stand in the law. (From little things [...])
This kind of construal of the story suits Australia perfectly – Lingiari, the Aussie battler takes on Lord Vestey, the pommie bastard – and wins, with the help of his Aussie mates. The point of the narrative is that power and privilege can be overcome (with a little help from our friends), as long as people know their rights and stand by them; and this nourishes the irreverent subjectivity that aligns Australians, for better and worse, in so many spheres of their lives. History has of course been shaped a little by way of fine tuning this rhetoric, in order to design a more comfortable reading position for Kelly's audience. Abuse of Indigenous women is elided from the issues motivating the walkout. The song ends in 1975, but the struggle for land is not finally resolved until 1986, with the granting of inalienable freehold title. And Lingiari's antagonist in the song, referred to as Lord Vestey, is almost certainly modelled on the manager of Wave Hill station, Tom Fisher (mentioned by Lingiari in 10 above); in my reading I couldn't confirm that Lord Vestey was anywhere near Wave Hill during the strike, although one Indigenous oral historian in Rose does mention him. Of course Fisher was Vestey's proxy, so this recontextualisation of the story doesn't stray too far from the facts of the matter, and certainly makes for a more appealing song – bringing out at the same time the important point that much of the land taken from Indigenous Australians is not owned by any Australians at all, but by foreign companies.
Further recontextualisation in the interests of solidarity have taken place over the years during performances of the song. The ‘tall stranger’ of Kelly's song is of course Gough Whitlam, the Labor Prime Minister who let Australia out of colonialism into a new realm of social possibilities in the early 70s; performing an acoustic version of the song to a generationally mixed audience at an RSL club in January 1999 in Sawtell, NSW, Kelly took a moment to name the stranger – for the benefit of younger fans born years after Whitlam's notorious dismissal and electoral defeat in 1975.
Alongside getting non-Indigenous Australians onside as far as the land rights issue is concerned, Kelly also uses the song to enact the kind of partnership suggested by Keating in text 9 above. This happens in the verbiage, in the song's last line, where he blends two readings of ‘the law’ – Indigenous customary law with imported European legal practices. Beyond this, the song of course is a multimodal text whose musical culmination partners western instrumentation with the Indigenous didgeridoo – when the music changes gear after the final chorus, shifting from a lilting ballad into hard rock. The screaming didgeridoo is played by Ernie Dingo, a well known Indigenous media personality (who is actually playing a piece of PVC pipe he picked up at a hardware store on his way to the recording – a further blending of Indigenous with migrant artifact). Symbolising the power and resilience of Indigenous culture, the didgeridoo is the last voice we hear in the song (as the other instruments fade out).
Kelly is well known for his work producing Aboriginal musicians, including the Archie Roach recording noted above as well as Yothu Yindi's first hit, a ‘disco’ remix of ‘Treaty’, among others. Like Father Glynn, he doesn't seem a conventional subject for critical discourse analysis; but as far as positive discourse analysis is concerned, both his own and others' music powered narratives cry out for analysis. Drawing on both popular and Indigenous culture, Kelly designs multimodal texts that reach a mass audience – an audience well beyond the reach of an everyday critical theorist. He enacts reconciliation, and from practices such as his there is lots to learn.
Back at the Sorry Day assembly at my son's primary school I found myself wondering who was documenting the grassroots movement that led to that assembly, and others like it, and the annual remembrances that would follow (later referred to as ‘Journey of Healing’ days). Who was studying the Aboriginal elders, as they spoke to the migrant children about being taken from their families, and the impact of their stories on those young children and their families? Who was looking at the significance of the Sorry Books, signed by so many Australians, and given to Indigenous people (my son, then 7, later told me proudly that he'd signed his school's book several times, because he was really sorry)? Why was I crying as the children respectfully handed their apologies to community elders; why does writing about it still bring tears to my eyes? What does all this mean for reconciliation? How does it matter?
Where are our critical theorists today I wondered? Probably back in their studies analysing John Howard's speeches was my best guess. Doing what I would do in my lectures that week, as exemplified above. I doubt I was far wrong (cf. Luke). This got me thinking about design, and what we need to know to contribute positively to change, and where we need to look for it, and what kinds of tools we need to look with.
I suppose it would be going too far to propose a 10 year moratorium on deconstructive CDA, in order to get some constructive PDA off the ground. But we do need to move beyond a preoccupation with demonology, beyond a singular focus on semiosis in the service of abusive power – and reconsider power communally as well, as it circulates through communities, as they re-align around values, and renovate discourses that enact a better world. Good question, of course, what better is! And how to achieve it? We can start to ask.
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1 Derogatory use of terms such as ‘café latte set’ and ‘black arm-band history’ was propagated by John Howard's right-wing government in Australia from the mid-90s, by way of discrediting liberal re-readings of Australia's past.
2 Throughout the paper I will use the term Indigenous Australian to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and migrant or non-Indigenous Australian for ‘whitefellas’.
3 As with all transcriptions of evidence from Indigenous Australians throughout the report, this ‘spoken’ language is formatted in bold face.