Acknowledgement and Apology

This post is being continually updated with links to commentary on the Apology

Awaiting the Apology

Today, for the first time, indigenous people performed a Welcome to Country ceremony at the Opening of the Parliament of Australia. Kevin Rudd’s hope is that this innovation of the 42nd Parliament will become a permanent Parliamentary tradition. I heard some of the speech of the Ngambri elder Matilda House Williams on the radio, and was deeply moved by her simple telling of how an indigenous man who attended an early parliament in traditional dress was asked to leave as he was not dressed “properly”, yet here she was barefoot beside the Prime Minister, both honouring the other.

Video via Kim at LP

The full text of tomorrow’s Parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generation is here. Excerpt:

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 fathers, the brothers and 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.

ABC News Online will stream Kevin Rudd’s apology from 8:55am AEDT on Wednesday. The apology will also be broadcast on ABC TV and ABC Local Radio.

I plan to add a roundup of posts from Australian blogs regarding the apology here over the next few days, and probably a few O.S. reactions as well. If I miss any, please let me know.

UPDATE: The formal apology and the accompanying address from Kevin Rudd were delivered to an attentive chamber and ended with a standing ovation.

“The nation is calling on us the politicians to move beyond our infantile bickering, our point scoring, our mindlessly partisan politics and elevate this one, at least this one, area of national responsibility to a rare position beyond the partisan divide.”

Brendan Nelson’s address failed to rise to either the occasion or to the call for an end to point-scoring. It started well, but later passages led to visitors walking out of the gallery, people outside turning their backs on the screen wherein he was shown, and potentially hijacking the impact of the apology on the indigenous people who have waited for this day for so long.

Links Roundup

The speeches

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s full address appended to the formal apology.[Summary from SBS]
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson’s full address text.

MSM responses
ABC: Cheers, tears as Rudd says ‘sorry’
SMH: Kevin Rudd says sorry
BBC: Australia Apology to Aborigines
HeraldSun: Nelson comments draw indigenous anger Britain urged to back Rudd apology
The Age: Time for nation to turn new page
ABC: Nelson missed the point: Keating
AAP: Brown defeated in ‘sorry’ compo bid
The Australian: Lib MP denies Stolen Generations exist
SMH (Saturday): Mike Carlton column

Blog commentary
Open apology thread on LP
Tim Dunlop
Ms Fits
Andrew Bartlett
Rachiel Siewert on Greensblog
Bernice Balconey
Pavlov’s Cat
Ampersand Duck
Laura at SillsBend
Beth at Sarsaparilla
James Farrell at Club Troppo
Apathetic Sarah
Harry Clarke
Tim Blair
Andrew Norton
The View From Elsewhere

Categories: ethics & philosophy, history, indigenous, social justice

Tags: , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. I thought the first half of the text was great. Then I was smacked between the eyes with the dog-whistle. My curmudgeonly take:

  2. I’d missed that as a potential dog-whistle. It does fit right into the beloved Pearsonite conservative-talk about cutting welfare dependence etc, doesn’t it?
    Of course, “cutting welfare dependency” is a motherhood statement. Who wouldn’t rather see those who are depending on welfare find rewarding and meaningful paid employment? But just cutting welfare payments to one class of citizen with the idea that rewarding and meaningful employment will just magically appear to fill the gap is pure fantasy, and a mean-spirited fantasy at that.

  3. Oh boy, I’m just listening to Nelson’s response right now– it’s making me cringe. He’s concerned about the feelings of the poor well-intentioned white people… :/

  4. What a meandering waffle Nelson’s speech was. I’m not at all surprised that the people outside in Federation Square turned their backs on him (did some of the visitors in the gallery at Parliament do so as well?)
    Right at the end, I saw a glimmer of the rhetorical intent: that good intentions then led to conditions which damaged indigenous people, and that good intentions now could do the same if (false dichotomy alert) the policies value cultural sensitivity above effectively addressing indigenous problems. He’s trying to defend the NT intervention against any dismantling.
    But hell – what a tin ear for the requirements of the moment. Those sort of arguments could have waited for the later debate regarding the Joint Policy Commission and Rudd’s proposed Closing The Gap programs (both suggestions I hugely applaud).

  5. Apparently some people in the gallery walked out during Nelson’s speech.
    Re Nelson, I agree: what a tin ear.
    Re Rudd’s speech: Lauredhel, I didn’t pick that up as a potential dog-whistle. I guess I was being more optimistic and seeing it as a “let’s work together” thing. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt on it, but I’m sad to say … I’m going to wait and see.

  6. Nobody ever mentions that it was ENGLAND, the Kingdom of England (it is not even a Country) which stole this fabulous island from it’s traditional occupants.
    England owes reparation to every one of the descendants.
    this could bring England to it’s knees.
    First we send back every English-born (non-naturalised) person who is actually IN Australia right now.
    All of them
    No more Visas or pensions or employment.
    It would be declaring war without a shot being fired.
    Then, stop any Australian citizen from spending their tourist dollars IN the Kingdon of England.
    We can bring a country to it’s knees without the Dept of Defence.
    England owes the Traditional Owners of Terra Australis, and BIGTIME.
    Brownie Bwca O’Dyne’s last blog post..Six O’Clock Swill

  7. Back to Rudd’s actual speech: the text of the formal apology we saw yesterday, but I was impressed by Rudd’s accompanying address, and its emphasis on unconditionality respecting the apology offered. Best speech I’ve heard him make.

  8. Well, if it’s not “mutual responsibility”, then maybe it’s non-indigenous Australians doing what they think is best for indigenous Australians, and we know now that taking that path leads to disaster. So I didn’t hear it as a dogwhistle either – more of an empowering thing, and a recognition of the need for partnership, rather than one group of people telling another group of people what to do.
    Deborah’s last blog post..A day to remember

  9. I’ve updated the post with some links to both MSM and blog commentary.

  10. Reproducing here a comment by Pavlov’s Cat at LP:

    Although I had to smile at Kev mentioning “post-Reformation theological debate
    Yes, that cracked me up too.
    I liked Kevin’s speech, but it was the sight of both sides of Parliament on its feet clapping and the two leaders in at least one unrehearsed handshake that actually made me cry. I’ve never seen it before and I don’t expect ever to see it again.
    Spare a thought for poor old Nelson though, stuck between the rock of Aboriginal presence and the hard place of his own party. He would have been better off getting up and saying ‘Onya, Kevin, me too’ and sitting down again.
    Would Rudd have given Nelson a heads-up about the proposed bipartisan commission before he actually got up to speak? You’d think he must have, but Nelson’s body language suggested it had come as a total surprise.

    I had a wry smile at the “post-Reformation theological debate” quip too.
    According to the ABC afterwards, the Libs were unaware of the proposed Joint Indigenous Policy Commission.

  11. I was impressed by Rudd’s accompanying address

    Have you seen a transcript of this online? THanks.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..This is what we?re up against: ?Ironbar? Tuckey

  12. I can’t find a transcript of the full address yet, although there’s plenty of copies of the text of just the formal apology. Might have to wait for Hansard.

  13. SBS has a fairly comprehensive summary, and video of both the formal apology and the accompanying speech as well.

  14. Excellent. This was, I think, my favourite section:

    ”There is something terribly primal about these first-hand accounts. The pain is searing, it screams from the pages – the hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental sense of humanity.
    “These stories cry out to be heard, they cry out for an apology.
    “Instead from the nation’s Parliament there has been a stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade.
    “A view that somehow we the Parliament should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong.
    “A view that instead we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side.
    “To leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.
    “But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities, they are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments.

  15. This bit got me:

    I asked Nanna Feijo what she would have me say today about her story. She thought for a few moments then said that what I should say today was that all mothers are important. And she added: ‘Families—keeping them together is very important. It’s a good thing that you are surrounded by love and that love is passed down the generations. That’s what gives you happiness.’ As I left, later on, Nanna Feijo took one of my staff aside, wanting to make sure that I was not too hard on the Aboriginal stockman who had hunted those kids down all those years ago. The stockman had found her again decades later, this time himself to say, ‘Sorry.’ And remarkably, extraordinarily, she had forgiven him.

    Lauredhel’s last blog post..This is what we?re up against: ?Ironbar? Tuckey

  16. That bit made me cry.
    Deborah’s last blog post..A day to remember

  17. Post updated with more links to blog commentary.


  1. “Sorry, but”: The apology, mutual responsibility, and self-determination at Hoyden About Town
  2. Two links « Vox ex Machina
  3. “Just because you can see it, doesn’t mean it’s yours.”: the political misappropriation of personal pain at Hoyden About Town
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