Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry - A Mixture of Responses

The text of the Australian Parliament's motion of "sorry" to Indigenous Australians can be found here.

Many people, of all backgrounds and communities found the apology an emotional moment: there were tears of joy; tears, too, of remembrance; some frowns, and many, many smiles.

Present in Parliament were Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke - all the living former Prime Ministers. John Howard would not attend to say "sorry", having refused to do so as Prime Minister.

Bringing Them Home, a report into the stolen generation, recommended that 26 May be set aside as a National Sorry Day. (see the site of the National Sorry Day Committee) There are many "days" set aside to remember past events, celebrate events, or to raise awarenes of, usually, health-related matters.

Others stood and turned their backs as soon as Opposition leader Brendan Nelson stood. The right to disagree, though, does not condone bad manners. Some booed when he mentioned that child abuse still occurs within Indigenous communities. (it also occurs in the wider community) Others are agitating for monetary compensation, and money for communities.

The hope that yesterday's apology brings will only bear fruit if Indigenous leaders, and thier communities, work with governments and their Councils to do what is right for individuals and their community. Alcohol, petrol-sniffing, disconnction from their heritage, and violence will be best stopped from within, and by, communities. Great things can come for individuals and communities when they work together. That is the hope that is what yesterday's apology brings.

Some "activists" were keen to push for monetary "compensation", but reparation can be in kind: it can be in the form of cooperative action with, and for, communities.

The apology was made in good faith by, and on behalf of, the Parliament of Australia. Many Australians agree with its sentiments. Many Indigenous people accepted it with good grace. Others should do so, too.