Wednesday, February 13

Sorry

Today was a very emotional time for Australia for if not an overwhelming than a very substantial majority of its citizens.

In parliament, to a capacity gallery audience spilling over into the grassy surrounds amid sprinklings of indigenous colors proudly waving, to school children listening intently, to News Bulletins, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd addressed the opening of the new parliament to deliver a formal apology to the indigenous peoples of Australia.

This historic moment, a first for an Australian parliament since federation, was to say sorry, for the stolen generation of children separated from families, and for the wrongs and injustices of the past. The occasion was a first in many respects , a gallery normally subdued was encouraged by the speaker to freely show their feelings of great joy in loud warm hearted acclamation , the parliament united in a bipartisan approach, the speech heard in a deafening silence but sincere of tone, by an appreciative audience that included all previous prime Ministers with the one notable exception of John Howard. The apology was emotionally accepted amid grateful tears in spirituall atmoshere that united Australia. The apology meant an awful lot to the aboriginal community who have graciously accepted it and who spoke emotionally of the enormous burden finally lifted from their shoulders, to allow healing to take place.

And the message has really taken root with our schoolchildren throughout the nation. Teachers have encouraged the students in the lead up to talk about what is means to say sorry and engendered philosophical questions along with many in the community who have asked those same questions. How do you say sorry? Why would you say sorry? Is it okay just to be just well-meaning? Is it a good idea to say sorry even if it’s a long time ago and you were not directly responsible? How will it be recorded in history?

To day they all listened intently.

So in essence this is one of those rare times when the words mean far more than the actions, words like spirituality, sorrow, healing, peace and pride start to seem very normal parts of every day news broadcast. People were not afraid to show their emotions including many notable public figures which contributed to this collective overwhelming feeling of goodwill. And for the first time for many indigenous people, they say they are proud to be Australians, teaching us what remarkably generous people they are, beyond our imagination. We are one but many, and thankfully now we can all move forward as one.

But unless theses words are translated into measurable progress to build a comparable future for all of us as one, to eliminate any divide in Housing, Heath and Education outcomes and general wellbeing we risk tragically returning in another 50 years to reconsider it all over again.

What are the prospects? One encouraging aspect is the bipartisan Commission already set upon to work with the leaders of aboriginal communities to provide more resources for housing and pre school resources with an additional 1400 teachers, and other initiates to hopefully quickly follow.

Has Rudd the ticker to make it all work? He’s certainly aware of the need to move forward, citing St Paul words as a reminder that without action words are like clashing symbols.

Cart is a fellow Australia blogger who has also posted comprehensibly on the topic, included he has refernced the full transcript of Rudd’s delivery of the apology which you can read by visiting his blog by clicking here.

10 comments:

Gary said...

This has been the lead story on CBC news in Canada today Lindsay. It is a huge and important step... and one that resonates in Canada. Here there has been official acknowledgement of the history of residential schools. There is also a reparation program with money for healing and a small grant to every person who was forced to attend these assimilation schools.

I think you're also correct in noting that it is the beginning. Understanding history from the Aborigine perspective, accepting there were wrongs... apologizing - these are the foundation. Next comes the hard work (together) of creating a different future than what is now projected.

Canada and Australia have this stain in common. Perhaps we can learn together and take courage from each other to do the right thing.

Michael Manning said...

Fascinating, as we in the USA have not heard an apology to Native Americans! You are well ahead of the curve!!

Cart said...

did you see Pat Dodson's National Press Club speech? An incredibly positive response.

grannyfiddler said...

as Gary has already said, this is on the news here in Canada... i listened with interest as i drove to work this morning.

yes, a beginning, but a very difficult thing to fix. after several generations of abuse and neglect of our Canadian indigenous peoples, the problems are huge. the first reaction was to throw money at the problem, which has not only not solved it, but exacerbated it in many cases. the end result of that is that many non-indigenous Canadians are resentful, and racism continues, but now for reasons to do largely with mismanaged government monies... some taxpayers take that very personally. and it's not the fault of indigenous peoples; more a fault of the system.

i hope Australia does a better job on healing past harms than Canada has managed so far.

Cart said...

granny i had the pleasure of five years in BC which included some political involvement as well as so involvement with the First Nations.
I understand the problem there, but it stems more from getting and wanting more. As more than one elder pointed out to me in BC, why sign a treaty if we can just make new demands every year.
The Australian aboriginals have rarely been given anything but welfare and, as happened in Canada their families broken up.

As to the coverage, I loved the way things Australian were covered when I was there. I only wish Australia would reciprocate in honouring our cousins there. I really do feel like Canada is my second country.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Gary, Michael, Cart & Granny F
Thanks for your comments, its early days yet a unique moment in Australia as we share Federal and State labour political parties, absent is the excuse to blame one another and we have a bipartisan commission at the federal level.

Gary~ I agree Canada and Australia do have this stain in common and I am sure we can learn together and take courage from each other to do the right thing although as Cart mentioned we do not have Treaty, only small native title claims.

Michael. But you do have a Treaty with the various tribes.

Cart –Yes I saw his positive response.

Granny F
These are valid points and hopefully we can avoid these problems you mentioned which existed in the past in Australia as well. I think the difference this time is the approach to work alongside very small indigenous groups, as ultimately it is only the idigenous groups themselves that can solve these problems and help reduce current child abuse due mianly to drunkenness, high rates truancy amongst school children, poor health due to lack of diet and so on. In the past you had large unwieldy bureaucies.

Cart. Thanks again for your input.
Best wishes

Seraphine said...

It's about time.
Three cheers for Australia for doing the right thing, and acting adult-like.

Josie said...

Lindsay, this is a great post. Pam at Audio, Video, Disco, one of your fellow Australians, did a post about this as well.

And yes, as gary says, this resonates in Canada as well.

Gary said...

Almost all tribes in Canada have treaties too, the exception being British Columbia where land was taken, reserves set up and laws made...with no treaty, no wars won at all. Many treaties elsewhere were broken of course.

That's why we're into modern treaty making here in BC. I have had some peripheral involvement and these modern treaties have the potential to be very useful, as they provide land, resources, funds, and space for self-governing. Research shows that native people who have self governance, maintain traditional language and cultural pride and practice, manage their own health, policing and education... and a way to earn a living - improve their conditions quickly.

Very interesting time.

Cart said...

Gary, it was back in the 2004 Federal election I was involved as a campaign manager in BC.
Along with my candidate I was told a number of times that treaties were too final when things could be negotiated annually.
Canada has gone a long way to resolve issues, but I the country is in a cleft stick in the end.
I met so many First Nation people who I will respect forever, Ernie Cray was one. But the FN agenda is not the same as the rest it seems.