Phillips's letter to student

Ms ,

St John's College,

10 Missenden Road,

Camperdown,NSW,2050. 24th September 2012

Dear Ms ,

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

I have been given a copy of your 17th September 2012 letter to the Chairman of Council ,Ms Christine Liddy AO by Ms Liddy.

I am very sorry that you interpreted my speech of the 3rd September 2012 at Formal Dinner in the way you did. I sincerely apologise to you for being offended by the speech. The speech was not intended , nor delivered in a way to disrespect or mock Indigenous people. The speech had an important message of forgiveness and tolerance . No doubt you have been given a copy of the speech which I sent to the Rector .I sent it to him by email the day following the dinner. In the email I thanked him for his kind words which he said to me personally as I sat down next to him after the speech and publically to the House at the conclusion of dinner. At no stage, after my speech or indeed in any reply to my email of the 4th September, did he tell me that any aspect of my speech was found to be offensive to anyone. Had he or anyone else done so I would have immediately apologised.

You will see by reading the entirety of the speech that it was given in relation, to use your words “(the) sentiment of thanking and respecting the founders of St John's College..” a sentiment I note you share. By respecting and thanking the Benedictines whose vision has given us the great buildings and our community, was not done at the expense of others' contribution. To praise one group is not to denigrate the other. To borrow a form of words and use them in a different context is a common rhetorical and indeed poetic method. There is an ancient, apt expression “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

I have a greatest respect for Indigenous people and the contribution they have made to our country. In a small community like St John's we all need to live in harmony, respectful of each other's aspirations and experiences. I am sincerely sorry that you misunderstood the purpose , style and words of my speech. I am deeply regretful that you were upset by it. I wish you well in your stay at St John's and success in your academic and professional career.

Yours Sincerely,

Jeffrey Phillips

The story Phillips's letter to student first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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