National Sorry Day

It’s National Sorry Day. But didn’t we already make the capital-A ‘apology’?

Yes. We did make that Apology – shamefully late, and only after a landslide change of government. And it remains one of the most moving speeches ever delivered in the Australian Parliament.

I was at La Trobe University on the day the Apology was delivered. At the time, I wrote:

It was a day in which I can say I was proud to be an Australian, and proud of my elected representatives – well, most of them, anyway. It’s something I haven’t been able to say for a long time.

I also wrote that there was a long road ahead.

Three years later, and the road is still long. Indigenous people still struggle with the consequences of white settlement, and government policies that dispossessed them of their land, declared them to be flora, damaged their culture and left emotional and physical scars that still haven’t healed. Perhaps they never will.

Yes, there have been some steps down that road, but there is still so much, much more to do. Children need access to quality education. Life expectancy is still far too low when compared to other Australians. Indigenous peoples are still not recognised in our Constitution.

Worst of all, some now want to move backwards. Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu recently announced that his ministers no longer had to follow protocol in recognising indigenous peoples as traditional owners of the land in their speeches. Why? Because it’s ‘dictatorial’. Because it’s ‘too politically correct’.

Or perhaps because it’s an uncomfortable truth that some people still don’t want to face – because if they do, they must also acknowledge that there is blood on their hands. That, even though they might not personally have done anything ‘wrong’, they share the responsibility for the actions of their ancestors. It’s so much easier to sweep it away and hide behind this vague notion that there is something distasteful about stating what is simply true.

And so we come back to the Apology, and why we should keep saying sorry. It’s important that we don’t forget what led to the Apology, why it was necessary in the first place. That we remember how families were torn apart, how children were taught to despise and disown their heritage, how people suffered because Australian people and Australian government were so arrogant as to think they could do as they liked, in the name of ‘assimilation’ and ‘civilisation’.

On National Sorry Day, I say to indigenous peoples that I am sorry. And that I will never forget.

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4 Responses to National Sorry Day

  1. IN and Christina,

    Your positions would be much more convincing if you were willing to give up the land you own and give it to an aboriginal family.

    I’m going to take it as read that neither of you have done this, nor have you any intentions of doing so.

    Nor should you feel compelled do it. You have acquired your property by trading your labour. This the concept of self-ownership, as a person the only thing you really own is yourself. All other property you own comes as an extension of that self-ownership, eg: choosing to exchange your labour for goods and services.

    This discussion is a lot more complicated than ‘X person owns Y thing because they were using it first.’

    You bought your property on an open and relatively free market, trading your labour for it, something that Aboriginals are not excluded from. It is yours and the fact that not all of human history has been as equitable and fair as it is today doesn’t mean you acquired it dishonestly.

  2. Initially NO says:

    There is the matter of recieving stolen goods when you inherit land that was stolen from Aboriginal People. Don’t forget that, you are accountable if you profit from abuse that happened via those you inherit property from.

  3. Christina says:

    “That, even though they might not personally have done anything ‘wrong’, they share the responsibility for the actions of their ancestors.”

    How on earth can you justify this position?

    -Because we are benefiting from the gains of wrongdoing.

  4. There is a good argument that was made that you omitted from your post: ‘It shouldn’t be a forced thing either, it should be a respectful acknowledgement and honest.’

    Mandating speech isn’t going to make an apology sincere, just the opposite it’s going to make it seem forced.

    I also don’t believe you think that people should be held accountable for the crimes of others. I am *not* responsible for the crimes and actions of my ancestors, I cannot and will not be held accountable for them and I reject the notion that anyone should be.

    My ancestors were Irish and English and oddly I have a gene that only the Vikings had. At some stage it was highly likely that one of my ancestors was raped by a Viking. Does that make me a rapist because one of my distant ancestors was? Did I rape my great-great-[n-greats]-grandmother by proxy?

    Of course not.

    Like many terrible pages in history I’m sorry about what happened to the Aborigines but that does not mean I accept responsibly for what happened to them.

    “That, even though they might not personally have done anything ‘wrong’, they share the responsibility for the actions of their ancestors.”

    How on earth can you justify this position?

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