Leunig has it exactly right in today’s edition of The Age. So does Noel Pearson, who comments on page 13 of the print edition:
Most white Australians will be able to move on (with the warm inner glow that will come from having said sorry), but I doubt indigenous Australians will. Those people stolen from their families who feel entitled to compensation will never be able to move on… Blackfellas will get the words, the whitefellas will keep the money. And by Thursday the stolen generations and their apology will be over as a political issue.
Some observations about today’s apology:
1) The Prime Minister should have had a theological advisor on his committee when writing this apology. The word “Sorry” needs to be backed up by reparation and penance. It needs to be received by the person hurt or someone with the authority to represent that person. And it isn’t over until the apology has been received and forgiveness extended.
2) The apology is for a very specific wrong done to some indigenous people during one part of our history. There is much, much more in the history of our relationship with the indigenous peoples of this land that still needs an apology and reparation. Today’s apology specifically does not apologise for the incident that took place 220 years ago as depicted in Leunig’s cartoon above.
3) The best way for the Australian Government and people to make reparation for past wrongs towards our indigenous peoples is to work at improving their quality of life to the point where they are equal citizens with equal opportunities with all other citizens. The apology for a specific wrong requires reparation to those specifically affected by what is apologised for. Much more needs apology and the true compensation must reach a much broader percentage of our indigenous population.
And just as an aside, I heard a little of yesterday’s “indigenous” opening of parliament in Canberra on the radio. A little sacarine for my taste. A nice gesture, but that’s really all it was. The words used sounded like so many home made “contemporary liturgies” that I have had to sit through in my time. In fact, that was exactly what the aboriginal woman being interviewed on the radio said–how she was so proud to have had “something I made up” used for the opening of parliament.
In addressing indigenous issues in this country, neither our Aboriginal nor our non-indigenous population should be satisfied with weasal words or motherhood statements or new age waffle. Let’s use words wisely and back it up with actions. Let’s say what we mean, and mean what we say. Let’s get real about “Sorry”.