Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry Day

If Kevin Rudd does nothing else of importance as Prime Minister than he has today he will deserve to be remembered for making this long overdue apology.

I have long been concerned with the effects on Aboriginal people of the laws which were imposed on them by successive governments. I've worked, taught, and lived close to indigenous Australians as have others of my family and I can still remember when the full magnitude of these policies was brought home to me. A man I greatly respected told me how he had been removed from his family as a young boy and sent to a children's home. During his time there, the house parents ranged from caring and compassionate to downright brutal. The resulting social legacy of shattered families is something we all have to live with and I sincerely hope that this apology will go some way to improving our society and that we can work together as one people for the benefit of all.

At the same time I think we must remember that Aboriginal people were not the only ones to suffer under misguided policies of the last centuries that separated families without valid reasons. The generations of child migrants sent overseas, often led to believe their parents had abandoned them or had died, some of whom had their names changed, also suffered deep traumas as did other groups. While none of this can be put right, in the interests of fairness they too deserve acknowledgment of the wrongs done them.

Times have changed and often for the better but we must remember that those who made these laws were not intrinsically evil, setting out to destroy lives. Their intention was to do what was right. That we can see they made enormous errors of judgment does not mean they should be vilified. We are all influenced by our culture and it may be that some of what we are doing today will be harshly judged in the future.

But at least we have made a start. Thank you, Prime Minister.

Note: I was appalled that when the Leader of the Opposition rose to speak some people in the Great Hall turned their backs on him and he was slow-clapped and jeered at by others outside. This is shameful. He may have come late to a recognition of the necessity for an apology but he did come to it, he was endorsing it, however clumsily, and those who behaved in this way demeaned themselves and those they claim to represent.

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