Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Full text: Apology to Aborigines

In case you missed it...
The following is the historic formal apology given to the Aboriginal people of Australia by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of its parliament and government.

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

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

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.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

The motion was passed by the Opposition- although Brendan Nelson's speech was a bit less elegant , certainly it had much less dignity - and occasionally off the point.

I especially took offense to his descriptions of obscene sexual violence that is 'happening in every NT Aboriginal Community' ( as found by the Little Children are Sacred Report)- it seems so out of place and shocking - I have heard it peddled as a kind of 'media porn' and certainly the Opposition Party seems to use it consistently it to justify the Intervention Policies.

The Public turned their backs on the screens at times when Brendan Nelson spoke.

But Rudd's speech was wonderful. I enjoyed it and will spend the day thinking about it....

What are your responses?


Blogger Charles Letterman said...

The Australian government has made a formal apology for the past wrongs caused by successive governments on the indigenous Aboriginal population. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, apologised to all Aborigines for laws and policies that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss". But the Aborigines want more. They want money and are calling the apology a 'cut-price sorry'.

Back in 1998, in a meeting with Tony Blair, the Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto offered "an expression of deep remorse and heartfelt apology to the people who suffered in the Second World War". But Britain's war veterans wanted more. They had been hoping for an apology from the entire government as well as further compensation on top of that received in 50 years ago.

Two years ago Tony Blair expressed his "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the slave trade. But representitives of those with ancestors victimised by the slavery wanted a formal apology (which Blair ruled out) and, of course, financial compensation.

So what's the point? Most country's governments have been violent and oppressive at some time in their history. Where does the guilt stop?

In fact, all of these apologies are meaningless. The groups are obviously resigned to their martyrdom, and nothing short of a financial pay-out will really satisfy them. And no modern day leader has the right to apologise for wrongs committed by previous generations anyway, however horrific.

My suggestion is that these powerful governments concentrate on dealing with the poverty and oppression happening around the world this very minute, rather than worrying about past misdemeanours that are cemented into history, and impossible to correct.

1:28 am  
Blogger Catalin said...

I have to disagree with the previous comment describing the violence of the past as "misdemeanours." At least in the American judicial system, a "misdemeanor" is a minor offense, and to use that term to refer to the ways that Australia's indigenous population has been treated is belittling and dismissive.

My response to the apology was to be impressed. I tried to imagine my government making a statement like that--certainly, it is inconceivable from the current administration, but it is hard to imagine even from a more generous one. Who would the apology address? Our nation is responsible for so much harm. How far back would we look?

That is the interesting point about a national apology to a conquered people. History and even what we know of pre-history seems full of peoples conquering other peoples and inhabiting their land. The conquered are absorbed to varying degrees into the conquerors' culture and society. Certainly the idea that conquered people have rights and should be treated as legal and social equals of the conquerors seems to me a fairly new and uncommon notion. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.)

It seems to me a hopeful sign of increasing humanity and compassion that an apology such as Rudd's can be made. The more people we include in our concept of "us", the fewer people we can attack as "other."

I know there are examples all over the world of groups pulling in on themselves, saying "only these are my people, we are separate from those" and the results are wars, genocides, and even simple hooliganism. Those make me worry. The apology issued by the Australian government gives me a a spot of hope.

6:32 am  

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