The Uluru Conference: Introduction

The papers published in this section were presented at the 2000 Annual Conference of the APAS at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia. The Conference had a closed clinical section ‘The intuition of the analyst in the psychoanalytic process’ and a section open to the public, with contributions by professionals in related social and cultural areas, ‘This whispering in our hearts: Intuition in the service of psychoanalytic work in the Australian milieu’.

It is not by chance that the decision to have the Conference in Uluru was taken at a time of self-reflection and re-thinking, but also at a time of expansion in the life of the Society and reaching our for a more public face and connection within Australian culture. Looking back, the Uluru Conference has been a spiritual pilgrimage that we had to have: Uluru is a place of profound symbolic significance for Aboriginal and Australian culture. The Rock itself, its almost religious presence, its cathedral-like spaces, the meanings attached to each cave and water hole, dense with stories and legends which are part of the history and the culture of the Indigenous people of the region; and most importantly the palpable presence of the despair and hopelessness of the Indigenous people. This had the effect to re-position and re-focus one’s mind in a more ‘depressive’, more open, more aware place, from where intuition flows.

The historian Henry Reynolds in his book ‘Why weren’t we told?’ talks about ‘The Great Australian Silence’ and ‘the cult of forgetfulness’ about our Aboriginal past. By forgetting and not knowing we also fail to know ‘about the dark underside of the Australian mind - the violence, the arrogant assertion of superiority, the ruthless single-minded and often amoral pursuit of material progress ... If, as so often in the past, we exclude the Aborigines from our history, we may retain a flattering self image, but will scarcely develop a mature awareness of ourselves and our heritage’.

There is another ‘cult of forgetfulness’ and it is about the losses and the grief that a country of immigrants like Australia carries within itself. Losses of a country, of a place, of a language, of a way of life. Some of the histories of the dislocation, dispossession and loss have been written, but the whole issue of belonging and not belonging, of mourning or denial of it, remain fragmentary and have not reached the Australian psyche. These unmetabolised losses also hinder ‘a mature awareness of ourselves and our heritage’ and tend to promote a culture of blandness and superficiality.

The papers published in this section are an attempt to deal with these issues: to recover people and places in our consciousness, to reconcile with a past and with experiences ‘we weren’t told’, to reflect on ‘whom is carrying what’ in a process of internal and external reconciliation.