Category Archives: Reconciliation

Reconciliation etc. Update

Just two bits from a quick look at this morning’s news.

1. Apology welcome, but plenty more to be done: Chaney

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.”

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Reconciliation, Stolen Generation, Reparations… and all that

Yes, I am still thinking about these matters. It is good that Australians do think about them, but I do realise that it is not at all as simple as perhaps I would like it to be, a reference to my vent the other day — which I still stand by for what it’s worth.

Jim Belshaw took me to task rather on that one, and subsequently addressed one aspect rather persuasively.

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One reads strange things on other blogs, but then I am sure what I write must seem strange too at times. On a no-names-no-packdrill basis (for two of them) I would like to share three I have found just this afternoon.

1. Aboriginal reconciliation is a left-wing plot.

…even my leftist friends, who madly apologise for the arrival of Arthur Philip and the subsequent dispossession of the indigenous people, benefit from that we celebrate. We can certainly try to understand the events that shaped our nation but we live in the here and now and from where I stand it is pretty good.

Enjoy this day without shame.

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Interlude continuing: thinking about Complex Problem #2

Cambridge University Press this year will publish The Politics of Official Apologies by Melissa Nobles, Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT. Some idea of where she is coming from, as well as a reminder to us that we are not entirely unique here in Australia, may be gathered from this interview:

Within two years of the publication of Shades of Citizenship, you were looking at the issue of reparations and what you call “official apologies.” Did the official apologies focus grow out of the reparations debate?

Actually, it’s the other way around. In 1998, I read an article on the front page of the New York Times that the Canadian government was apologizing to the indigenous population. And I asked myself, “What does that mean? What are the politics of that? And will it matter?” And then, in 1999, there was a huge debate in Australia about whether the government should apologize to its aboriginal people. So I thought, “Hmm, something’s going on here.” Read the rest of this entry »


Another relevant archive find

This March 2001 encounter I had totally forgotten!

March 7
Last night’s conversation

I said yesterday I had had a conversation with an Aboriginal man from Cairns/Cooktown. He is in his late 20s or early 30s, I would say; very well spoken, having completed High School to the HSC, and is a self-confessed explorer, having spent some time in New Zealand, where he was embraced by the Maori, and has lived in Sydney for some time now. He had also lived in Melbourne. Last night he was celebrating some good news–starting a job on Monday.

He said he never encountered racism in Cairns or Cooktown; the first time he really encountered it was in Sydney and Melbourne.

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Posted by on January 14, 2008 in Australia and Australian, blogging, Indigenous Australians, personal, racism, Reconciliation, reminiscing


Following "Racism No Way": on Aussies, Skips, Anglos and other creatures of our imagination…

This is not the promised entry on how to teach the White Australia Policy to Year 10, but it is a contribution. It could even be a source of related reference material in approaching the topic in a way that does justice both to facing the unpleasantness squarely but without self-righteousness or ahistorical moral judgement — without the special pleading that people like Keith Windschuttle indulge in to prove, no pun intended, that black is white after all. (See for example Windschuttle’s essay Why Australia is not a racist country.)

I want to draw your attention not to a historian but to a writer — one some would argue is Australia’s greatest living writer: David Malouf.

In 2003 The Quarterly Essay (an excellent publication born out of informed resistance to Howardite orthodoxy but by no means blindly ideological) published Malouf’s extraordinarily perceptive and off-centre contribution to the debate about Australia and Australian values: Made in England: Australia’s English Heritage; the following issue had responses by Phillip Knightley (disappointingly perfunctory in this case), Morag Fraser, Larissa Behrendt, Alan Atkinson, James Curran, Sara Wills, and Gerard Windsor. Together these furnish a goldmine of thoughts. I found Malouf’s essay totally resonant with my own experience of Australia, even if one or two of the criticisms made by a few of the responders are well made. Most of the responders, including Aboriginal writer Behrendt, essentially confirmed the accuracy of Malouf’s deeply subjective but also deeply true reading of Australian life.

Sorry, none of these is online, but you can order back copies or go to a library. I recommend you do.

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Sydney Boys High School 1955

Yes, fifty-three years ago next February this little boy from Sutherland started at age 11 to go to Sydney Boys High travelling through a Surry Hills Ruth Park would have recognised. The god-like Fifth Form students — High School only went to Year 11 then — included quite a few who became, well, god-like figures.

Did you know that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can trace its origins to the Department of External Affairs that was first established in 1901? Since that date, five old boys of Sydney High have headed the Department with responsibility for foreign or external affairs: Sir John McLaren (1887), 1929-1933 (as Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department); Sir Alan Watt (1918), 1950-1954; Sir James Plimsoll (1933), 1965-1970; Sir Alan Renouf (1936), 1974-1977; and Dr Peter Wilenski (1955), 1992-1993. James Plimsoll and Peter Wilenski have also acted as Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1959-1963 and 1989-1991 respectively…

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Posted by on December 13, 2007 in Australia, current affairs, Indigenous Australians, memory, multicultural Australia, personal, Reconciliation


How anti-correctness-correctness killed off John Howard…

…and haunts Miranda Devine.

JOHN HOWARD conceded defeat in Bennelong yesterday. But less than a year ago the woman who vanquished him, Maxine McKew, thought her partner, Bob Hogg, was mad for recommending she try to depose the prime minister.

It was the audacity of Hogg’s suggestion that horrified McKew. Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the only prime minister to lose his seat, and that was in 1929.

“I said to him: ‘Are you insane? People would think that would be the ultimate vanity? Who does she think she is, taking on the prime minister?”‘ McKew told Margot Saville, whose book The Battle For Bennelong will be launched next week…

That story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald continues:

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More Indigenous matters


The Sydney Morning Herald today reports on the new exhibition by photographer Juno Gemes, linked to the picture. It is hard to believe there was a time when the struggle for recognition by Aboriginal Australians was regarded as a Communist plot and those involved were given the ASIO treatment, but that was the case as Files reveal the silly, scary spies’ eye-view of Aboriginal history indicates.

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Posted by on November 5, 2007 in Australia and Australian, current affairs, Indigenous Australians, Multicultural, Political, Reconciliation


Meanwhile on another channel

Hat tip to Thomas for that title. He recently lamented the “sad fact that more people will have been watching Kath & Kim on channel 7, while on channel 9 at the same time there were separate interviews with John Howard and Kevin Rudd (both quite good) about the election.” I would like to lament the fact that on Monday night more people would have been watching the Infotainments on Channels 7 and 9 or the soap on 10 than watched Message Stick on ABC, and it was a particularly relevant episode.

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Posted by on October 17, 2007 in Australia and Australian, current affairs, Indigenous Australians, Kevin Rudd, Political, Reconciliation, TV


Detention report pressures Howard – National –

I am cheering about (and cheered by) this development, but not ecstatic, as the anal retentives who run this country will no doubt be dragged screaming away from policies and attitudes that should not have been there in the first place. Their past pedantry, hairy-chestedness (even Amanda’s, a horrible thought) and general right-wing mindlessness created the evils that even they are now forced to see.

Why the f*ck did they go down that track in the first place? As, in many cases, they are such “good Christians”, why weren’t they listening to what the majority of churches told them, and continue to tell them?

See also my page “Massaging the Asylum Seekers.”

Mind you, it is threats to his power from within his own ranks – praise be for Mister Georgiou and company – that are making the Prime Miniscule see the light… This is more his style.

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Posted by on June 12, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, current affairs, human rights, immigration, Indigenous Australians, John Howard, Reconciliation, right wing politics


The Past We Need to Understand Presented by the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, August 24, 2000

Well worth revisiting.

Margo Kingston was amazed at the time:
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Posted by on May 30, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, History, Indigenous Australians, Political, Reconciliation


Courage finds a new voice through healing journey

This is a really moving story from the National Indigenous Times this week:

NATIONAL, Canberra, May 25, 2005: The courage of the Stolen Generations has found a new voice in a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl who earlier today delivered a keynote address to 800 guests at Parliament House, less than a day after her mother was tragically killed.

Christine Jacobs, a member of the Stolen Generations from Perth, was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the National Day of Healing launch in Parliament’s Great Hall. But just hours after arriving in Canberra last night, Christine was struck and killed in a motor vehicle accident in the Canberra suburb of Hughes, while walking outside the home where she was to spend the night. Her daughter, Tamara, was present when her mother died. She was inside the Kent Street home when the accident occurred and heard screeching tyres, before running outside.

“I saw my mum lying there and knew something was wrong,” Tamara said. “I went to the hospital and I kept thinking of all the things Mum had ever taught me. She always used to say ‘Be as positive as you can Tamara’. I just have to accept that she is gone… it must have been her time to go.”

Somehow, the teenager from Maddington in Perth found the strength and courage to deliver her mum’s speech the following morning. In the process, she showed how much strength of character her mum had instilled in her. Tamara read her mum’s speech to an emotional Great Hall audience. She told how Christine had been removed at the age of two but after a battle with drugs and alcohol, overcame extraordinary hurdles to get her life back on track.

“I hated white people with a passion because of this,” Tamara said, reading from her mum’s notes. “I actually tried to bleach my skin when I was in grade 3 because “being black meant too much pain. When I reached 16 to 17 years of age, I gave up. I found a sense of belonging in alcohol, drugs, violence and gambling and having no self-respect for myself in anything. It was my pit and I felt comfortable there. I didn’t question it. To me it was the way my life was meant to be like – my destiny. I just accepted that it was all blackfella’s destiny.

“I stayed in this pit for years until I reached a point where I didn’t want to live anymore. I was prepared to take my life – I wanted to die. My kids spoke to me from a photo and I realised I had three very important reasons to live. They saved my life and were my inspirations for getting out of the pit.”

The words were already familiar to Tamara – just four days ago she had helped her mum write them, and then flown with her to Canberra to deliver them.

“When my mum was writing her speech she said to me, ‘What am I going to say?’ and I said to my mum ‘Talk about what ever you feel comfortable with’,” Tamara said.

Tamara said that she was very nervous about the flight from Perth to Canberra, but despite it being Christine’s first trip on a plane, gave her daughter some words of comfort to ease her nerves.

“My mum said that the pilots were angels flying the plane and on the wings there are two really big angels, Jamal and Sirrus, watching over us,” Tamara said.

Australian Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway, who MCed the National Day of Healing launch, paid tribute to Tamara’s bravery in speaking on her mother’s behalf.

“It’s an inspiration, the courage, I think, that Tamara has shown, that she wanted us to go ahead and she wanted us to provide an opportunity for her mother’s voice to continue to be heard,” he said.

Senator Ridgeway said Mrs Jacobs would be remembered as a powerful woman, with a passion for reconciliation.

“I think in many ways that in telling her story in this way, she’s tragically, I think, made the ultimate sacrifice to what the journey of healing is about, what reconciliation’s about,” he said.

Prime Minister John Howard said Mrs Jacobs’ death was a “heartbreaking event”. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley offered his condolences to Mrs Jacobs’ family and friends, and added: “Her daughter Tamara very courageously spoke on her behalf this morning.”

Tamara flew home this evening to Perth to be re-united with her family. She said she was relieved to be going home and felt comforted that she would be escorted on the flight by former Australian of the Year, Fiona Stanley.

Shortly before flying home Tamara told NIT; “I am very proud of my mum and I am so glad that she got her wish to go on a plane.”

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Posted by on May 28, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, Indigenous Australians, John Howard, Political, Reconciliation