Start the healing. Stop the violence.
November 25, 2015
So what is recognition?
December 9, 2015
Start the healing. Stop the violence.
November 25, 2015
So what is recognition?
December 9, 2015

‘What is Recognition?’ A conversation between Noel Pearson and Jonathan Lear

Congratulations from CASSE to the newly announced members of the Indigenous Referendum Council:

  • Professor Patrick Dodson (co-chair)
    • Mark Leibler AC (co-chair)
    • Pat Anderson AO
    • Professor Megan Davis
    • Andrew Demetriou
    • Murray Gleeson AC QC
    • Kristina Keneally
    • Mick Gooda
    • Tanya Hosch
    • Jane McAloon
    • Michael Rose
    • Natasha Stott Despoja AM
    • Noel Pearson
    • Amanda Vanstone
    • Dalassa Yorkston
    • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

The announcement of the Council yesterday is an important start in the process of recognition. It is also fitting that the announcement was made on the eve of an important event – a public conversation between Noel Pearson and the renowned American psychoanalyst and philosopher, Professor Jonathan Lear, to discuss ‘What is Recognition?’.

CASSE’s Pamela Nathan willl join Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Duncan Ivison as a panelist at this event, and CASSE has issued the following media release:


December 7, 2015


Recognition is a word that has become synonymous with Aboriginal people and politics.  Yet according to one of the expert panellists at a Sydney University event featuring Noel Pearson and Jonathan Lear, this seemingly simple concept goes to the very core of existence for every living person and every community.

“Recognition is as essential to life as oxygen,” said psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Pamela Nathan. “For an individual, the denial of positive recognition heralds psychic and emotional death. Psychic death involves the denial of oneself as a human being.”

Pamela Nathan, who is also the Director of CASSE’s Aboriginal Australian Relations Program, joins highly regarded Indigenous academic, Professor Marcia Langton, and Professor Duncan Ivison, Professor of Political Philosophy and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Sydney, on a panel at a free public event to consider the question ‘What is Recognition?’ on Tuesday the 8th of December.

The panel discussion will follow the headline act – a conversation between one of Australia’s foremost Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, Noel Pearson, and renowned American psychoanalyst and philosopher, Professor Jonathan Lear.  What is recognition, what kind of acknowledgement is involved, and how it affects the identities of both sides will be the starting point for this public conversation.

Ms Nathan argues that when the denial of positive recognition extends to an entire community or society, the result is communal psychic death.

“The past lack of recognition for Aboriginal culture and identity has a living presence in racism, violence, despair, depression, dissociation, loss, trauma, cultural erosion, criminality and substance usage to anaesthetise the pain,” she said. “It’s what therapists call ‘lateral violence’ and it’s the result of relentless, unchecked dismissal and nullification of who a person is.”

Ms Nathan draws on more than 30 years of experience working with Aboriginal communities and says the importance of real and meaningful recognition is best summed up by the words of Warlpiri elder Rex Granite, from Yuendemu, spoken at a public forum hosted by CASSE: “You do not speak my language”.

“His meaning went much deeper than these simple words,” says Ms Nathan. “You do not know me. You do not see me. I am invisible to you. You do not know my world. You do not know my name. I do not have a voice in your world. It is Terra Nullius.”

Ms Nathan says:  “We can no longer deny that the brutal force of stolen lands, lives and children are the storylines of Terra Nullius written in traumatic song lines. Confronting the truth about our violent colonial history is something mainstream Australia has been dangerously loath to do”.

Ms Nathan believes that recognition at both the personal, individual level is important, but we also need to treat the national psyche through constitutional and cultural recognition.

As Pearson and Lear prepare to discuss the complex question of recognition in light of the proposed referendum on Constitutional recognition, Ms Nathan offers the following:

“What is recognition? It is the vital recognition that Australia is not Terra Nullius; land belonging to nobody. It is the only option for all Australians to live together in an equal, humane and emotionally thriving world.”


Event details:

What: What is Recognition? Noel Pearson and Jonathan Lear in Conversation
When: 6.30pm to 8.30pm, Tuesday 8 December 2015
Where: The Great Hall, the Quadrangle, the University of Sydney
Cost: Free, registration required:


MEDIA CONTACT:  Elizabeth Lindner, email:  phone: 0407 725 242

Pamela Nathan is available for interview. Pamela is a forensic and clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist and is the Director of CASSE’s Aboriginal Australian Relations Program, working on violence and trauma with Aboriginal organisations, communities and people in central Australia.

CASSE (Creating A Safe Supportive environment) works to create safe, supportive environments for individuals, families and communities through psychoanalytic awareness.