Just two bits from a quick look at this morning’s news.
A former Aboriginal Affairs Minister has welcomed the Rudd Government’s announcement of a formal apology for the Stolen Generations, but says the real work will come after the apology is made.
“An apology is long overdue, and it will be good to get it out of the way and get on with the business of dealing with the 17-year-gap in life expectancy,” he said.
“For many Aboriginal people this is an important step in putting the past behind them and getting with the business of ensuring that Aboriginal futures are better than the Aboriginal past.”
Mr Chaney says it is a shame the apology has not come sooner.
“One could go on having consultation about these matters forever,” he said. “It’s nearly 10 years since the report on these matters was brought before the Australian people, I think it’s high time the apology was made, and we are able to move on and work constructively for a better future.”
Ms Macklin said she hoped the motion would receive bipartisan support but made it clear Labor would use its superior numbers to drive it through regardless.
“The apology will be made on behalf of the Australian Government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people,” she said.
Ms Macklin said the wording was not ready and that the former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, a patron of the Stolen Generation Alliance, was among those who had been consulted.
The announcement was welcomed by those who had been pushing for an apology, which the former Howard government refused to countenance.
“I just ask all Australians to think about the significance of it and to imagine how they would feel if their own children had been taken away simply because of the colour of their skin,” said the chief executive officer of Reconciliation Australia, Barbara Livesey.
The Coalition will decide its position at a two-day partyroom meeting next week. The Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, restated yesterday he wanted to see the wording of the apology before making a decision, but remained reluctant to support it.
His indigenous affairs spokesman, Tony Abbott, believed “there was no conceivable wording that is going to satisfy resolute activists without deeply upsetting many other people”.
However, if the apology acknowledged it was wrong to make welfare decisions based on race, then “that’s a perfectly reasonable statement”, he said.
However, the apology must differentiate between those who were stolen from their families and those who were “rescued” or “helped”, he said.
Malcolm Turnbull supports an apology, but a fellow frontbencher, Joe Hockey, said there should be no apology for those “taken from their families justifiably”.
Mr Rudd again ruled out any compensation offer yesterday and he has stressed the apology would be on behalf of past Commonwealth governments and only to Aborigines who were removed due to their race.
Michael Anderson, a founder of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra, said the apology should acknowledge that past government policies were aimed at “the complete annihilation of a race of peoples”.
The Stolen Generations Alliance co-chairman, Christine King, said the key element was the word “sorry”. Ms King fought tears as she spoke of the importance of Ms Macklin’s announcement. “This is a historic moment, not just for Aboriginal people but for Australia,” she said. “It’s Australia standing up as a nation and saying, ‘We’ve come of age’.”
A range of responses there. Had we followed Tony Abbott’s line, nothing would have happened, or would happen, ever. Michael Anderson? Stiff cheddar: what you say is simply untrue, or untruly simplistic. If we followed your line, nothing would have happened, or would happen, ever. There spoke two who should be consigned to the waste bin of history.
Christine King? Right on! 🙂
In case you were wondering: this is the 18th entry tagged “Reconciliation”. It is the 1,106th entry on this blog. Just in case you thought I was being obsessive. 😉
In a statement from Goodooga in NW NSW, Michael Anderson said today:
“In our family’s experience, my grandmother taken from Angledool, NW NSW in 1914 and had to find her own way home. She always wanted recognition of the government’s cruel judgement to breed out the colour and culture of Aboriginal people.”
“For an apology to be meaningful, there is a lot of history that PM Kevin Rudd has to admit to. He has to say why the Prime Minister and government is sorry and the public has to accept that the sorry statement is necessary for Australia to move forward.”
“In 1937, State and Federal governments convened a conference in Canberra to decide on a policy of what to do with ‘the Aborigines’ – the resulting policy objective was for the complete annihilation of a race of Peoples. The principle method to achieve this was to remove Aboriginal children from their parents and from the influence of customs, traditions and Law/Lore. The primary objectives were to de-Aboriginalise these children and to expunge their colour, because Australia was working towards an Aryan race.”
“It is important to remember that, in 1901, the first Federal Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, argued for a continent that could be free of ‘contamination’ by foreign and unwanted racial impurities. When he led the debate in the House of Representatives on the Immigration Restriction Bill 7 August 1901, he quoted Professor Pearson a noted social commentator of the time by saying: ‘The fear of Chinese immigration which the Australian democracy cherishes … is in fact, the instinct of self-preservation, quickened by experience … We are guarding the last part of the world in which the higher races can live and increase freely for the higher civilisation .… The day will come …when the European observers will look around the globe girdled with a continuous zone of the yellow and black races. It is idle to say that if all this should come to pass our pride and place will not be humiliated. We are struggling among ourselves for supremacy in a world which we thought of as destined to belong to the Aryan race; and to the Christian faith; to the letters and arts and charms which we have inherited from the best of times.”
“Many in mainstream cannot plead ignorance as it was a common agreement between State and Federal governments with the policy finalised in 1937 in Canberra. There are many Australians still alive today, who voted and trusted the governments to do right thing, but never questioned what was going on. The policy was genocidal in intent and practice – to create a white Australia without colour.”
“In almost every other country in the world, where colonisation has taken place, reparations in various forms have enabled survivors of gross violations of human rights to locate their niche in society. Reparation funds have made it possible for those indigenous groups to maintain identity, restore dignity, develop strategies and an economic base.”
“Reparation programs have to ensure there is not a white bureaucracy having control over us. We have to get away from mission managers. We do not want to be treated as children. We have never been given opportunity to manage our own affairs without a white b
ureaucratic ceiling of control and an expectation of assimilation.”
“Aboriginal Peoples can do without the welfare handouts. Our nations have to restore their territorial integrity and Australians have no reason to fear this.”“We must set our own objectives. We have a right to do this. The recent UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms our rights and responsibilities. In Australia, Greeks, Italians, Macedonians have own clubs, churches, languages,schools while integrating into Australian society. Why is it different for us as Aboriginal Nations and Peoples in our own land?”
“If Rudd and his labour government are serious, the detail of a sorry statement must include the true horror of the genocide that was planned against Aboriginal Peoples and what was carried out.”
“To alleviate the Australian governments’ fears of separate development through reparation, they only have to look at US and Canadian models, where the sovereign identity of individual nations is maintained. In the Mabo case, the High Court alluded to the fact that sovereignty can continue to exist among Aboriginal Peoples and we assert that it does. We only ask that this be respected and that we can have co- existing sovereignties.”
To be fair to him, there are some ongoing issues there. However, the genocide accusation is in my opinion overdrawn, but that is a whole other argument**, one that has been going on for some time. I am not, I should add, by any means a “whitewasher” when it comes to this history, but a good case has emerged over the past decade for some caution in using words like genocide as a general descriptor of all past policies and actions.
You know, there have been times, places, and policies in the history of Indigenous Australia since 1788 when the word “genocide” is appropriate, whether that genocide was deliberate or accidental. But is skews the whole picture if that alone is seen to be the story.