Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry? Get real.

Leunig has it exactly right in today's edition of The Age. So does Noel Pearson, who comments on page 13 of the print edition:
Most white Australians will be able to move on (with the warm inner glow that will come from having said sorry), but I doubt indigenous Australians will. Those people stolen from their families who feel entitled to compensation will never be able to move on... Blackfellas will get the words, the whitefellas will keep the money. And by Thursday the stolen generations and their apology will be over as a political issue.
Some observations about today's apology:

1) The Prime Minister should have had a theological advisor on his committee when writing this apology. The word "Sorry" needs to be backed up by reparation and penance. It needs to be received by the person hurt or someone with the authority to represent that person. And it isn't over until the apology has been received and forgiveness extended.

2) The apology is for a very specific wrong done to some indigenous people during one part of our history. There is much, much more in the history of our relationship with the indigenous peoples of this land that still needs an apology and reparation. Today's apology specifically does not apologise for the incident that took place 220 years ago as depicted in Leunig's cartoon above.

3) The best way for the Australian Government and people to make reparation for past wrongs towards our indigenous peoples is to work at improving their quality of life to the point where they are equal citizens with equal opportunities with all other citizens. The apology for a specific wrong requires reparation to those specifically affected by what is apologised for. Much more needs apology and the true compensation must reach a much broader percentage of our indigenous population.

And just as an aside, I heard a little of yesterday's "indigenous" opening of parliament in Canberra on the radio. A little sacarine for my taste. A nice gesture, but that's really all it was. The words used sounded like so many home made "contemporary liturgies" that I have had to sit through in my time. In fact, that was exactly what the aboriginal woman being interviewed on the radio said--how she was so proud to have had "something I made up" used for the opening of parliament.

In addressing indigenous issues in this country, neither our Aboriginal nor our non-indigenous population should be satisfied with weasal words or motherhood statements or new age waffle. Let's use words wisely and back it up with actions. Let's say what we mean, and mean what we say. Let's get real about "Sorry".

4 Comments:

At Wednesday, February 13, 2008 4:58:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That apology and 10 cents won't buy a cup of coffee. There are winners and losers in the world. People should accept events as they happen in the past. The only way to rectify anything that happened with colonizing any area in the world is for all the people to go back to their original countries.

 
At Wednesday, February 13, 2008 8:44:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes, it is a bit of an odd thing. I was reading today Pope Benedict's account of the last days of St Augustine, how he died while the Vandals were beseiging Hippo, Rome having already fallen to the Visigoths. I wondered a bit about whether the Vandals and Visigoths ever apologised to the Romans--but then again, when you think about it, that was one case where the conquered culture ended up the victor in the end. Of course, there were the ancient Britons and the Saxons and then the Normans...

But the thing I guess is that the colonisation of Australia took place during or post-Enlightenment. By which stage human beings were developing something of a conscience about these things... or should have been.

 
At Thursday, February 14, 2008 4:02:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curious the double-standard:

We can watch the new rites for the opening of Parliament and laud and applaud the "Traditional Aboriginal Rites", the "Traditional Dress", the "Traditional Ceremonies", the "ancestors" and, to use the PM's words "the ancient rites" of these ancients peoples.

But, when it comes to the Catholic Church's "Traditionl Rites", Traditional Dress", "Traditional Ceremonies" and "Ancient Rites" - ie the Tridentine Mass and its variants - many:

(a) don't want to know;

(b) don't care

(c) are positively hostile

(d) say "we don't do that in a modern country"

(d) say "we don't do that sort of thing in Australia"

(e) say it has no value or it's bad or we've been betrayed (thanks, Fr Erlich of the Brisbane Liturgeist Commission)

And then people wonder why people lose respect for the Church and its members (especially many of its priests).

 
At Thursday, February 14, 2008 5:28:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

1) The session was opened with a 'welcome to country' and the presentation of a message stick. There were representative groups of the stolen generation in the gallery who were formally and informally acknowleged before during and after proceedings. The PM and LO were presented with a gift of a coolamon by representatives of the stolen generation to be then presented to the speaker. Outside, in venues all over Australia, members of the stolen generation and their supporters witnessed proceedings as they happened.

2) The apology WAS about the stolen generations but, time and time again, put it in the context of historic wrongdoing.

3) Pad Dodson -- someone who should know -- expressed his dissapiontment that compensation wasn't part of the deal, but he emphatically rejected those who saw this as something to detract from the apology.

4) Your comments on the opening are a little patronising. If 'Something I made up' come out as 'composed' would it have been more palitable?

As I made my way into town to witness the event with thousands of others I heard Pat Dodson on the radio putting the boots into 'doomsayers' like Noel Pearson. The day is not for him or other commentators, it's for the stolen generation and we should focus on that as a positive. What I witnessed backed that up. There was no doubt that the people who this was directed to appreciated it deeply and would not have appreciated your comfortable critque of 'weasal words or motherhood statements or new age waffle'. I listened to all of the critics before and after, but it was the reaction of the stolen generation that I give greatest credence to.

And, yes, now's the time to back up the words.

 

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