Archive Article: Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker and New Directions For Australia. 7 Feb 03
December 27, 2008

The passing of Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker has triggered a flood of memories of his considerable contribution to so many areas of Australia’s public life. It is worth noting that right up to the time of his passing he remained the Chairperson of a unique organization: the National Goals and Directions Movement.

Sir Alan started the National Goals and Directions Movement in 1981. There was then a high degree of division in the community. Sir Alan was very gifted in that he had a wide range of contacts. Once a person was entered into his address book, that person never left it. Sir Alan employed those contacts formed over a lifetime of public service to assist with the new organization. For example, the people who held the offices of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition during most of the last two decades were sponsors of the organization, as were a variety of other politicians and non-political figures.

Sir Alan set out the organization’s main goals: the creation of a just society, an injection of idealism and service, a heightened quality of life, a commitment to justice, freedom and peace, and a search for spiritual goals. These goals were – and remain – somewhat different from the focus on individual greed that was – and remains – the dominant idea in politics. “Do unto others before they get a chance to do it unto you” seems to be a common theme in so much of Australia’s public life.

Sir Alan held out the hope for a better Australia, a nobler Australia. I have been the Movement’s Executive Director from the outset and was much impressed with Sir Alan’s thinking. The organization has been involved in a number of ventures, including the 1988 Bicentennial book “A Vision for Australia” in which Australians from all walks of life shared their visions for this country. The book was launched by the State Premiers in their respective capital cities in 1988. I was in Western Australia at that time and the Premier Peter Dowding was very sympathetic to the project.

But it has to be admitted that despite all the favourable contacts and sympathetic media coverage, this has been an uphill task. Deep down people do recognize that these are noble goals – but somehow the more selfish individualism has won the day.

On February 2 this year I took part in a one-hour national radio programme in which a number of people recalled Sir Alan’s work, including the National Goals and Directions Movement. The programme also included a radio interview conducted of Sir Alan by Caroline Jones. That interview was done in 1991, just after the Gulf War.

It was disturbing to listen to Sir Alan’s distinctive, well-sculptured sentences talking about a “war with Iraq”, the “need for greater integrity in business life”, a criticism of business failures, and the need for better ways to solve disputes. It was almost as though he were talking today – the issues he addressed 12 years ago are ones that are being discussed today.

It was also disturbing to hear that 12 years on, we are still having to address these very same issues. So little progress had been made. Perhaps it would be more comfortable to turn away from them and focus on easier issues closer to home? But Sir Alan has kept on keeping on.

There is a reference in a Jewish prayer that it is not for you to finish the task – but by the same token it is not for you to refuse to begin to solve it. Thus, the baton gets passed to the next generation.

In the meantime, we can be inspired by Sir Alan’s own lifetime of public service – and the courage that comes from the optimism of faith.

Broadcast Friday 7th February 2003 on Radio 2GB’s “Brian Wilshire Programme” at 9pm.