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Australia says sorry to the Stolen Generation





bigdan
Quote:

Cheers, tears as Rudd says 'sorry'
From ABC News (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/13/2161309.htm)
Posted 42 minutes ago
Updated 15 minutes ago


There have been emotional scenes in Federal Parliament, where Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has delivered his long-awaited apology to Australia's Stolen Generations.

Mr Rudd turned and applauded members of the Stolen Generations in the public gallery after delivering an emotional address to the House of Representatives in which he spoke of the "profound grief, suffering and loss" experienced by Australia's Indigenous people.

The House rose as one to applaud Mr Rudd's speech.

Parliament also applauded the speech given by Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson but the hundreds of people who were gathered in the Great Hall and outside on the lawns of Parliament House gave him a hostile reception.

Many in the Great Hall began by booing and jeering, then turning their backs on the big screens carrying Dr Nelson's address. Some walked out in protest during Dr Nelson's speech.

In Federation Square about three-quarters of the crowd turned their back on Dr Nelson.

Mr Rudd opened proceedings by offering an unconditional apology to the Stolen Generations, talking about tens of thousands of children separated from their familes and repeating the word "sorry" on three occasions in the formal apology.

He called on the Opposition to join in a 'war cabinet' to deal with Aboriginal housing issues and matters of constitutaional change and spoke of moving into the future with "arms extended" rather than with "fists still raised".

Dr Nelson used his speech to warn against judging actions of the past by the standards of the present and said it was correct that no compensation was being offered, because he said no money could compensate for the hurt inflicted on those removed from their familiies.

'We say sorry'

Addressing a packed House of Representatives this morning, Mr Rudd said the Parliament apologised for laws and policies which had "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians."

"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry," he said.

"To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the 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."

As Mr Rudd was speaking hundreds of people had gathered outside Parliament House to watch events unfold on big screens.

"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," Mr Rudd continued.

"For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

"We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians."

"... A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

Mr Rudd says the apology is being made to "remove a great stain on the soul of the nation.

"The time has come, well and truly come, for all peoples of our great country ... all Australians, those who are Indigenous and those who are not, to come together, to reconcile, and build a future for our great nation."

'Sheer brutality'

Mr Rudd told the chamber the moving story of one member of the Stolen Generations, taken from her family in the Northern Territory.

He spoke of the "sheer brutality" of separating a mother from her children, which he described as "a deep assault on our senses and our most elemental humanity".

In an attack on the government of John Howard, he said it had treated the Stolen Generations with a "stony, stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade".

"[There was] a view that we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side," he said.

"To leave it languishing with the ... academics and the 'cultural warriors', for who the Stolen Generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.

"But as of today the time for denial is at last come to an end."

Fair go

Mr Rudd says reconciliation is a reflection of a core tenet of Australian society: the concept of a fair go for all.

"For our nation, the course of action is clear ... and that is to deal now with what has become one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history."

"In doing so, we are also wrestling with our own souls.

"As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification."

Mr Rudd said he hoped today's apology would open a new era in Australian history.

"We have had sufficient audacity and faith to advance part way to that future, with arms extended rather than with fists still clenched," he said.

"Let us allow this day of national reconciliation to become one of those rare moments in which we might just be able to transform the way in which the nation thinks about itself.

"For the nation to bring the first two centuries of our settled history to a close ... and embrace with awe these ancient cultures which we are blessed, truly blessed to have among us."

Mr Rudd's speech was greeted with prolonged applause from both sides of the House and from those gathered outside.

Good intentions

Responding to the motion, Dr Nelson warned against judging actions of the past by the standards of the present day.

"Each one of us has a duty to understand what has been done in our names," he said.

"Our responsibilty, every one of us, is to understand what happened here. Our generation does not own these actions. Nor should it feel guilt for what was done, in many cases, with the best intentions."

Speaking of the early settlers who founded the modern nation of Australia, and the Indigenous people they encountered, he said: "We cannot from the comfort of the 21st century begin to imagine what they overcame - Indigenous and non-Indigenous - to give us what we have and make us what we are."

And he referred to Opposition unease about the use of the word "Stolen".

"Many Australians are hurt by accusations of theft, in relation to their good intentions," he said.

"None of us should bring a sense of moral superiority to this debate."

Like Mr Rudd, Dr Nelson recounted the story of a member of the Stolen Generations.

Speaking of a child taken from her father, he said she did not want people to say "sorry" to her. But she wanted people to understand the enormous pain the separation caused her.

And he said there should be no monetary compensation because no compensation fund could erase that pain.

Dr Nelson pledged his "unconditional support" for Mr Rudd's 'war cabinet' proposal.

"This is far, far more important than anything that would normally divide us," he said.

And he finished his address by saying: "As one people, we are sorry" before shaking hands with Mr Rudd across the dispatch box.



About time! Saw the whole thing this morning and thought it was very nicely done.
paul_indo
Will England also apologise to the descendants of all the convicts who were forcefully relocated to the other side of the world and never saw their families again?
Bikerman
paul_indo wrote:
Will England also apologise to the descendants of all the convicts who were forcefully relocated to the other side of the world and never saw their families again?
Not quite the same thing, is it? The operative word here is 'convict'.
bigdan
paul_indo wrote:
Will England also apologise to the descendants of all the convicts who were forcefully relocated to the other side of the world and never saw their families again?


I doubt it. To be a descendant of a convict is actually considered an honour here in Australia. And as Bikerman said, it's not really the same.

Just been reading a lot of the news sites and watching some of the TV news, and it's good to see the majority of Australians agreeing with Rudd's actions. I didn't feel comfortable with people turning their back on the opposition leader's reply though. A bit rude in my opinion.
Bikerman
I agree. I've been to your fair country on a couple of occasions and had a great time. I actually drove (with a friend) from Darwin down to Adelaide, across to Melbourne and up to Canberra, and spent some time up in the Northern Territory with the same friend - he works in Hearing/Audiology Services and spends some time in the Aboriginal lands there.

What happened was unconscionable and it's good to see an apology, belated though it is.
bigdan
Bikerman wrote:

What happened was unconscionable and it's good to see an apology, belated though it is.


Yep.

Reading through the post of a forum I help moderate, apparently quite a few TV and web news polls are reading people do not approve of the apology. Given TV networks lie about most things, polls and ratings included, I would take their findings with a grain of salt.
paul_indo
Bikerman wrote:
Not quite the same thing, is it? The operative word here is 'convict'.


Only if you consider someone who steals a loaf of bread or an apple to stop them starving a "convict".
I can't say I do.
ganesh
It is nice to see the Australian government apologizing for the treatment of the Aborigines.

Not only in Australia, but the Europeans have majorly scarred the rest of the countries in the world by their slave trade before the Industrial Revolution and colonialism after it. It is time they tendered an apology too. And not to mention, the effect of the American settlers on the Red Indians..
Bikerman
paul_indo wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Not quite the same thing, is it? The operative word here is 'convict'.


Only if you consider someone who steals a loaf of bread or an apple to stop them starving a "convict".
I can't say I do.
But by the standards of the time they were. There is no point in applying current standards retrospectively, since, by todays standards, many aspects of 18th and 19th century life would be outrageous and immoral. The fact is that the people in question were convicted of a crime, unlike the aboriginal parents in the case under discussion.
tijn01
Well it was about bloody time, but I guess that is what happens if bloody Johnny Howard is pm for 11 years, bloody idiot. All looks lot better with Rudd behind the wheel, go Ruddy
flowerpower
When I heard the news, I was happily surprised.

Quote:
Parliament also applauded the speech given by Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson but the hundreds of people who were gathered in the Great Hall and outside on the lawns of Parliament House gave him a hostile reception.

Many in the Great Hall began by booing and jeering, then turning their backs on the big screens carrying Dr Nelson's address. Some walked out in protest during Dr Nelson's speech.

In Federation Square about three-quarters of the crowd turned their back on Dr Nelson.


Really rude indeed!!

And now, what about Great Britain and Diego Garcia? Too much vested interest, unfortunately...
Bikerman
flowerpower wrote:
And now, what about Great Britain and Diego Garcia? Too much vested interest, unfortunately...
I quite agree. What happened at Diego Garcia was outrageous and makes me (as a Brit) ashamed.
blackheart
Bikerman wrote:
paul_indo wrote:
Will England also apologise to the descendants of all the convicts who were forcefully relocated to the other side of the world and never saw their families again?
Not quite the same thing, is it? The operative word here is 'convict'.


Slightly more to the point would be that Australia was originally declared Terra Nullius (and thus the land/citizenship rights of Indigenous Australians originally nullified) by act of UK, not specifically Australian, Parliament.

(As our states didn't even Federate to form a nation until 1901).


I'm not trying to shirk our Parliament's need to apologise though, as the Stolen Generation was at the fault of Australian Politicians.

It took 1901 through to 1967 for Indigenous Australians to be recognised as citizens in our Constitution, which ironically really just gave our government the power to legislate over them... to legislate for what was intended to be forcible inter-breeding as a means of "phasing out" the problem of the "dark" population... disgusting thought processess. - and it's amazing how quickly the Apology centered (almost soley) on that one issue, when the apology people had been calling for had been all inclusive of all wrongs.



I suppose it's a still a positive thing that an apology has been made - the little it'll achieve in a material sense - I'm not sure I've heard of "nation" apologising to the aborignes from which they've forcefully taken land.



=> Jess


PS - interestingly, one bill tossing back and forth in Parliament at the moment is to amend our Genocide act to include in it's definition the forcible removal of children from a group of people, and the prevention of women from a specific group falling pregnant.

If it's a means of removing a race from a population, then it really is genocide in a sense, isn't it?
blackheart
Bikerman wrote:
paul_indo wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Not quite the same thing, is it? The operative word here is 'convict'.


Only if you consider someone who steals a loaf of bread or an apple to stop them starving a "convict".
I can't say I do.
But by the standards of the time they were. There is no point in applying current standards retrospectively, since, by todays standards, many aspects of 18th and 19th century life would be outrageous and immoral. The fact is that the people in question were convicted of a crime, unlike the aboriginal parents in the case under discussion.


The apologies are applying current standards retrospectively.

Even though it wasn't that long ago, at the time of settlement declaring a land clearly inhabited by (dark skinned) people as uninhabited was acceptable, and at the time of the Stolen Generation our Parliament thought they were doing the right thing by Anglo-Australia. The "retrospective" argument is the whole reason the apology has taken so long.

I'm about as Anglo-Australian as it gets - Welsh, Irish and Scottish heritage - numerous branches of my family tree rooted firmly in the first fleet and a direct descendant of Captain Cook's sister. But I know neither of those acts were right.

Just as I don't feel the deportation of people who had committed petty crimes was just. Yes it was considered the norm at the time, but not long before so was the slave trade - the abolision of which one should take great pride in.


Hmm, I'll get some sleep and edit this all in the tomorrow to make it a little more coherent. I am le tired.

=> Jess
Bikerman
I'm not saying that the acts in question were moral or 'right' at the time. I'm saying (in specific response to a particular point) that we can't go back and say that the people concerned were not criminals simply because, by todays standards, we would not convict them - or certainly not apply the same notions of punishment.

The original debate was about separating children from aboriginal families. This was, I believe, wrong at the time it was done, as well as being abhorrent to us now.

The whole issue of retrospective apologies is fraught. Would it be sensible for the British Government to make a public apology for the slave trade? I don't know myself. Blair expressed his 'sorrow' over the matter - which, even though I am/was no Blair fan, I believe was the right thing to do. An apology, however, would seem to me to be a fairly meaningless statement. I don't feel strongly that we shouldn't apologise - I just see it as empty rhetoric which adds little to the debate and does little to put right the historical injustice.

In the case of the 'stolen generation' I believe an apology was in order because the issue is still 'live'. There are aboriginals alive today who were separated from their parents - children were still being taken as late as the 1970s. In such a case I believe an apology is not only right but it is required - which is why I believe the Australian government did the right thing.
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