On the evening of Thursday 19 September 2019, members of the Freilich family joined with past and present Convenors and Advisors of the Freilich Project, and with dozens of friends and supporters of the Project’s initiatives, to celebrate the 20thanniversary of the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry.
Hosted by Professor Rae Frances, Dean of ANU’s College of Arts and Social Sciences, and a member of the Freilich Project’s Advisory Board, the evening began with a short speech from Valmae Freilich, acknowledging the contributions of her late husband, Herbert, and her continuing commitment to their shared vision of a more tolerant world.
The Freilich Project’s first Convenor, Dr Benjamin Perry, similarly paid tribute to Herbert Freilich, recalling his encouraging words that one does not necessarily need to complete what one starts to make the world a better place, so long as one makes a contribution. Dr Penny also shared Herbert’s reminiscence of “the day I should have protested,” his encounter with xenophobia in 1930s Sydney. Later Convenor, Dr Melissa Lovell, noted the many and varied activities the Freilich Project has initiated over the years.
Meeting in the Hall of University House, attendees gathered beneath Leonard French’s historically significant and vitally contemporary series of paintings called “The Journey,” introduced and analysed by Emeritus Professor David Williams. Inspired by French’s travels to the United States in the turbulent 1960s, the paintings express the artists concerns with the Vietnam War and “racial conflict in the communities he witnessed,” Professor Williams explained, including protests over the integration of formerly racially segregated schools. Professor Williams argued that while some visitors to University House “find the paintings disturbing, I think they represent a reflection of life and times today.”
The keynote address was offered by the Chancellor of the ANU, Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans, who offered “ANU’s warmest congratulations and thanks to the Freilich Project and all who have sailed with it – Valmae and her family for their wonderful generosity and vision, but also Board members, researchers, students, participants and other supporters, past and present.”
The Chancellor praised the Freilich Project as “a model of what we want to achieve in our public policy engagement, dealing as it has for the past two decades with an issue of huge continuing public importance, both domestically and internationally – the history, causes and effects of bigotry and intolerance – and carried out as it has been through a research and education program that has engaged multiple scholarly disciplines, and the broader community beyond the ANU.”
The topic of Chancellor Evans’ address, “The Changing Face of Australian Racism,” reflected on significant achievements over the past two decades, including the apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008, but also disappointments, including abuse of the indigenous footballer Adam Goodes, and the recent outbreak of Sinophobia in Australian public life.
The full text of the Chancellor's speech is available to read here.