Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today the nation says we're Sorry

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd made an official apology to the Indigenous people of Australia for the forced removal of children from their families, who were removed for no other reason than their genetics - they were half-castes. The policy was one of genocide, forced assimilation, and the destruction of an ancient culture.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

Kevin Rudd made the apology today on behalf of himself, the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament, unequivocally. His apology was warmly received by the stolen generation and their families and all those effected by the policies of the previous Government.

However, the opposition leader Dr. Brendan Nelson who gave his full and unrelenting support for this new chapter in history made comments which were poorly received, with people booing and turing their backs, perhaps more to do with the timing of the comments rather than the comments themselves.

Whether Australian by birth or immigration, each one of us has a duty to understand and respect what has been done in our name. In most cases, we do with great pride, but in others it is with shame.

Personally, I liked what Brendan Nelson had to say (the comment above is almost exactly the same as what I've said in previous posts) but it was also complementary in its contrast with what the Prime Minister had to say. Kevin Rudd's speech was directed toward the Aboriginal people, an apology - long overdue with no hesitation.

While Brendan Nelsons speech was directed at those Australians who haven’t quite jumped on board the reconciliation bandwagon. I thought it was appropriate for the audience. He was raw, real and gritty. He gave details not just of the injustices of white men to Indigenous people, but also of crimes unpunished by Indigenous against their own.

He described how mothers were thrown out of a police vehicle while their daughters screaming in the back were taken interstate to institutions never to see their families again. Dr Nelson also described how the policy of removing children from abuse was and still is a sound policy. I have to agree, and while as an Anarchist I don't support the Government intervention, I am in mixed minds about the remedy for children suffering physical and sexual abuse. These sorts of abuses are continuing in Aboriginal communities and need rectifying. It's not an easy or comfortable issue; it's gritty and it's real.

Perhaps these abuses continue in Aboriginal communities because of a lack of on our part of wanting to get involved - incase we repeat past mistakes. Perhaps. Perhaps the abuses originated by the Indigenous communities because of the Government interventions, because of a lack of identity and connectedness to who they are, their community and each other.

Ultimately, what Dr Nelson said was true, inappropriate for the situation, as tact and courtesy can certainly go a long way. Comments which would have been better received a few days from now, while celebrations of positive feelings of reconciliation flow from the broader Australian community.

When giving an apology (and in any relationship with friends, family or coworkers), we all know you give it without caveats, else it's not really an apology. But, today was more than an apology, it was about a way forward. In doing so, we need mutual responsibility, and that's what i'm taking from Brenden Nelsons' speech.

All in all I am happy for the Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander community that finally, they have an aknowledgement of what has happened to them in the past. Ultimately, instead of a compensation fund for individual victims of the stolen generation, I would like to see the Australian Government make resistutions by giving back land to the Aboriginal people. Generally, the Aboriginal community does not understand money - it's not in their culture (except for those who have assimilated). No, the Aboriginal people want and understand land, and it's their land that should be restitution.

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