Creating people's geographies
On the 13th of March, at 9am Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivers the long awaited public apology to our indigenous Australians, and in particular the Stolen Generation as a central part of reconciliation with Australia’s past. This welcome landmark comes after his Prime Ministerial predecessor, John Howard, expressed regret but refused to say the word sorry. This simple yet powerful act means so much to indigenous Australians, traumatised by being stolen from their parents and for a whole raft of historical injustices. While there is a long way to go, with possible compensation, social indicators and federal intervention in remote central Australian Aboriginal communities still weighty issues, this is a good start.
It is fitting that the famous “If you have come to help me …” quote highlighted below is from an Australian Aboriginal woman, Lila Watson, who wishes it to be attributed collectively.
The PM tabled and subsequently delivered the following text of the apology in Parliament.
RESOURCES: Audio, video and transcript (.pdf here) of speech (just after the fold)
Audio: Listen to Kevin Rudd’s historic speech that includes the motion below plus his subsequent address in the Australian Parliament (30 minutes total):
Video of apology, part 1 (R/T: 3:56)
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.
See also Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil frontman and current Labor MP, It’s time to acknowledge the past (SMH, 12 Feb) and coverage at the National Indigenous Times, Get Up and the ABC. Related sites: Reconciliation Australia – ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) – National Sorry Day Committee – Stolen Generations Alliance – ‘Bringing Them Home’ report – HREOC (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission).