Noni HSazelhurst: 'I would sometimes start to cry, and they would start a slow handclap and say "oh, BAFTA"', Logies Hall of Fame - 2016

 8 May 2016, Crown Palladium, Melbourne, Australia

 Thank you Steve Molk at for sharing his transcription. Great Australian TV site.

Aw, that was interrrminable, I was nearly too old to play myself.

Wow. 43 years is a long time, and yet it seems like an instant. So much so this seems like somewhat of a shock. I'm very honoured and I'm very humbled and I thank you.

The Logies people wouldn't let me see that package before now. They wanted me to cry, well job done, guys, thanks a lot.

I'm feeling pretty misty-eyed at the moment but I often get misty-eyed about things. As you heard I'm known for it. If something touches my heart I cry pretty readily.

In fact when my sons were teenagers and driving me up the wall and trying to get a reaction so they could watch me go off like a frog in a sock, I would sometimes start to cry, and they would start a slow handclap and say "oh, BAFTA". Which of course would make me laugh, thus proving their point.

But I was disturbed this week that a misty-eyed response to a particularly frightful human story in the news was deemed inappropriate, and we were exhorted not to feel, not to have empathy, not to love.

I think of myself as a storyteller and since forever stories have been crafted and told to help us make sense of the world and to realise that we're not alone. So whether it was finding more tips than a tin of asparagus during ten years on Better Homes and Gardens; or playing the role of a mother who's been estranged from her son because he was gay in the extraordinary, ground-breaking series Redfern Now, I've always tried to find stories that resonated on an human, empathetic level.

Projects that existed to encourage people to feel and reflect and let me tell you that's narrowed the field of what I've wanted to do considerably.

I was known for turning down more than I accepted for a while.

But if something didn't seem to have value for me then I couldn't expect it to for anyone else. But I have been incredibly lucky and I firmly believe that success in this business at least - I don't know about any others - is fifty percent luck and fifty percent hard work.

And I have been so lucky. My first stroke of luck was being born to parents who, as Shane said in the package, were vaudevillians in England just prior to World War Two, and after the war England was buggered and Vaudeville was dead, killed off by John Logie Baird's invention of television, so as ten pound Poms my parents came here in 1953, (and ) I was born.

We got TV for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 - don't worry, I'm not going through every year, it's OK. So from the age of 3, once Mum and Dad noticed I had some ability and passion for performing, I was brought up on a diet of English comedies featuring people they'd worked with and great variety shows. Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Dean Martin - the best entertainers of their time.

I learned at my parent's knees comedy timing, accents, singing. I had ballet, piano, calisthenics lessons. Mum and Dad were incredibly critical of much of what increasingly became to be offered as entertainment, having worked with and watched some of the best.

My Mum said, "You can always tell a lousy act: they use lots of tricky lighting. The good ones just stood in the spotlight and did it."

They made me understand that the industry didn't owe me a living and that I had to be able to do anything and everything - great lessons indeed.

They taught me how to act. What they didn't teach me, as I suspect no one had taught them, and because it wasn't encouraged especially for girls, was how to be myself.

Play School was the next stroke of luck.

Under the tutelage of Henrietta Clark and the late Allan Kendall I learned the tenets of the Play School philosophy, formed by a most rare and wonderful respect, love and understanding of its target audience: a single pre-school child.

Once I got over my own self-consciousness and self-judgement and started to relax I realised this child was far more demanding than any audience of adults. Three and four year olds have the best bullshit detectors, don't they? They don't just watch you because you're there, they want connection and they want real engagement.

If they sense you're not really talking to them an ant crawling up the wall will quickly take their attention.

For many decades Play School has been an icon, an oasis and a safe haven in an increasingly complex media landscape and world. I started to see the world through a pre-schooler's eyes; to see how free and unafraid they are to just "be". They haven't yet been conditioned. But also how easily frightened and overwhelmed they are, how easily abused, and particularly how empathetic they are.

No child is born a bigot.

The TV landscape when I started Play School in '78 was very different: four channels, no 24/7 news, no 24/7 anything. It was much easier to protect children from images and information they couldn't assimilate.

But with the explosion of technology and the proliferation of screens we can't escape exposure to bad news and violent images. They're everywhere - at the Dentist's, on buses - and most of us, not just kids, find the bombardment overwhelming.

I suspect that almost none of us here, or watching, is immune from the growing incidence of depression, anxiety and suicide. We all know people who are struggling. We may be ourselves, and too many of our kids are.

We're all living under a heavy and constant cloud of negativity. We're divided against each other and our fellow human beings; we find it hard to trust; and we're fearful for the future, and I think it's because we're surrounded by bad news and examples of our basest human behaviour.

I fear that our hearts are growing cold.

The fact that I'm only the second woman to be given this honour is only a reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist. As is the odious suggestion in some quarters that the eligibility of our esteemed colleagues Waleed Aly and Lee Lin Chin to be considered for the Gold is questionable.

But things are clearly changing. Here we are. But they're changing glacially slowly. The great thing about glaciers is that if you're not on them, you go under. I've been riding that glacier for 40 years, and I'm staying on top of it.

Graeme Blundell once wrote about me, saying, "No one does ordinary and vulnerable like Noni Hazlehurst." Yeah, that's what I thought at first. But then I thought, "that's OK, because we're all vulnerable and we're all ordinary." Although a lot of our energy is spent trying to prove the opposite.

Play School works because it reflect life as many of us actually live it, and the people on it are real. Shows featuring clips of dogs and cats work because dogs and cats are real and recognisable. They're spontaneous and truly alive. There's no fakery, no concocted animosity and no competition. No tricky lighting. Just lots of love.

So here's my pitch: I'd love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children that there are good things happening and good people in the world.

I know it's a lot to ask for, but at the very least a show that tries to redress this overwhelming imbalance; that counters bad news with good; that encourages optimism, not pessimism; that restores our empathy and love for our fellow human beings and the earth; that redefines reality; that heals our hearts.

And, by the way, I'm available.

There are plenty of vigorous advocates for the cause of division. I'm a vigorous advocate for the cause of unity.

This award has turned out to be the most wonderful Mother's Day present, not least of which because my dear sons get to spend Mother's Day here with me tonight. Charlie and William.

It also provides the opportunity to reflect on the qualities of mothering that are meaningful.

The ideal mother and father is someone who nurtures and protects us; who tells us stories to help make sense of the world; who gives us non-judgmental acceptance and unconditional love; who teaches us that we're not special, but we are unique; who encourages our empathetic instincts and teaches us the responsibility that we have to each other.

This is what we long for from our parents. And to be as parents.

Helen Clark, the ex-New Zealand PM, said in her pitch to become the new head of the UN, "Peace really matters to women." I hope that it really matters to us all and I hope that I can keep telling stories that reflect that.

I just want to quickly thank some people to whom I currently owe a great deal.

The legendary Bevan Lee who created the beautiful story about bigotry and intolerance, with great roles for women, that I'm lucky enough to be a part of - A Place To Call Home. And Brian Walsh, who recognised the audience's love for the show and he brought it back to life, and who has created an environment and a workplace of equality and inclusion that is a great privilege to be a part of. Thank you both, very much.

Thanks to my manager, Sue Muggleton, and my brother Cameron who used to make me laugh so much I wet the bed.

And to my boys, Charlie and William, for keeping me young, and making me old. I love you both to pieces.

Thank you all for this recognition. I'm very grateful.


Ernest Hemingway: 'I have spoken too long for a writer', Nobel acceptance - 1954

October 1954, Stockholm, Sweden

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.


Gabriel García Márquez: 'A New and Sweeping Utopia of Life', Nobel Prize acceptance - 1982

8 December, 1982, Stockholm, Sweden

Antonio Pigafetta, a Florentine navigator who went with Magellan on the first voyage around the world, wrote, upon his passage through our southern lands of America, a strictly accurate account that nonetheless resembles a venture into fantasy. In it he recorded that he had seen hogs with navels on their haunches, clawless birds whose hens laid eggs on the backs of their mates, and others still, resembling tongueless pelicans, with beaks like spoons. He wrote of having seen a misbegotten creature with the head and ears of a mule, a camel’s body, the legs of a deer and the whinny of a horse. He described how the first native encountered in Patagonia was confronted with a mirror, whereupon that impassioned giant lost his senses to the terror of his own image.

This short and fascinating book, which even then contained the seeds of our present-day novels, is by no means the most staggering account of our reality in that age. The Chronicles of the Indies left us countless others. Eldorado, our so avidly sought and illusory land, appeared on numerous maps for many a long year, shifting its place and form to suit the fantasy of cartographers. In his search for the fountain of eternal youth, the mythical Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca explored the north of Mexico for eight years, in a deluded expedition whose members devoured each other and only five of whom returned, of the six hundred who had undertaken it. One of the many unfathomed mysteries of that age is that of the eleven thousand mules, each loaded with one hundred pounds of gold, that left Cuzco one day to pay the ransom of Atahualpa and never reached their destination. Subsequently, in colonial times, hens were sold in Cartagena de Indias, that had been raised on alluvial land and whose gizzards contained tiny lumps of gold. One founder’s lust for gold beset us until recently. As late as the last century, a German mission appointed to study the construction of an interoceanic railroad across the Isthmus of Panama concluded that the project was feasible on one condition: that the rails not be made of iron, which was scarce in the region, but of gold.

Our independence from Spanish domination did not put us beyond the reach of madness. General Antonio López de Santa Anna, three times dictator of Mexico, held a magnificent funeral for the right leg he had lost in the so-called Pastry War. General Gabriel García Moreno ruled Ecuador for sixteen years as an absolute monarch; at his wake, the corpse was seated on the presidential chair, decked out in full-dress uniform and a protective layer of medals. General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the theosophical despot of El Salvador who had thirty thousand peasants slaughtered in a savage massacre, invented a pendulum to detect poison in his food, and had streetlamps draped in red paper to defeat an epidemic of scarlet fever. The statue to General Francisco Moraz´n erected in the main square of Tegucigalpa is actually one of Marshal Ney, purchased at a Paris warehouse of second-hand sculptures.

Eleven years ago, the Chilean Pablo Neruda, one of the outstanding poets of our time, enlightened this audience with his word. Since then, the Europeans of good will — and sometimes those of bad, as well — have been struck, with ever greater force, by the unearthly tidings of Latin America, that boundless realm of haunted men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. We have not had a moment’s rest. A promethean president, entrenched in his burning palace, died fighting an entire army, alone; and two suspicious airplane accidents, yet to be explained, cut short the life of another great-hearted president and that of a democratic soldier who had revived the dignity of his people. There have been five wars and seventeen military coups; there emerged a diabolic dictator who is carrying out, in God’s name, the first Latin American ethnocide of our time. In the meantime, twenty million Latin American children died before the age of one — more than have been born in Europe since 1970. Those missing because of repression number nearly one hundred and twenty thousand, which is as if no one could account for all the inhabitants of Uppsala. Numerous women arrested while pregnant have given birth in Argentine prisons, yet nobody knows the whereabouts and identity of their children who were furtively adopted or sent to an orphanage by order of the military authorities. Because they tried to change this state of things, nearly two hundred thousand men and women have died throughout the continent, and over one hundred thousand have lost their lives in three small and ill-fated countries of Central America: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. If this had happened in the United States, the corresponding figure would be that of one million six hundred thousand violent deaths in four years.

One million people have fled Chile, a country with a tradition of hospitality — that is, ten per cent of its population. Uruguay, a tiny nation of two and a half million inhabitants which considered itself the continent’s most civilized country, has lost to exile one out of every five citizens. Since 1979, the civil war in El Salvador has produced almost one refugee every twenty minutes. The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway.

I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.

And if these difficulties, whose essence we share, hinder us, it is understandable that the rational talents on this side of the world, exalted in the contemplation of their own cultures, should have found themselves without valid means to interpret us. It is only natural that they insist on measuring us with the yardstick that they use for themselves, forgetting that the ravages of life are not the same for all, and that the quest of our own identity is just as arduous and bloody for us as it was for them. The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary. Venerable Europe would perhaps be more perceptive if it tried to see us in its own past. If only it recalled that London took three hundred years to build its first city wall, and three hundred years more to acquire a bishop; that Rome labored in a gloom of uncertainty for twenty centuries, until an Etruscan King anchored it in history; and that the peaceful Swiss of today, who feast us with their mild cheeses and apathetic watches, bloodied Europe as soldiers of fortune, as late as the Sixteenth Century. Even at the height of the Renaissance, twelve thousand lansquenets in the pay of the imperial armies sacked and devastated Rome and put eight thousand of its inhabitants to the sword.

I do not mean to embody the illusions of Tonio Kröger, whose dreams of uniting a chaste north to a passionate south were exalted here, fifty-three years ago, by Thomas Mann. But I do believe that those clear-sighted Europeans who struggle, here as well, for a more just and humane homeland, could help us far better if they reconsidered their way of seeing us. Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.

Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.

In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death. An advantage that grows and quickens: every year, there are seventy-four million more births than deaths, a sufficient number of new lives to multiply, each year, the population of New York sevenfold. Most of these births occur in the countries of least resources — including, of course, those of Latin America. Conversely, the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune.

On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, “I decline to accept the end of man”. I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.