Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A step forward for Australia

Australia has now officially apologized for its treatment of Aborigines:
Australia has formally apologised to the stolen generations with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reading a speech in Federal Parliament this morning.

The apology was read at 9am to the minute, as the first action of the second sitting day of the 42nd Parliament of Australia.

Both Mr Rudd and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin received a standing ovation as they entered the Great Hall before the Prime Minister delivered the speech.

The reading of the 361-word apology was completed by 9.30am and was watched by hundreds of parliamentarians, former prime ministers and representatives of the indigenous community.


"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.

Damn right. The previous prime minister, John Howard, refused to apologize for what previous administrations had done. Isn't that grand? You get to fuck 'em over, and as soon as somebody else gets in charge they can say "It wasn't me; so why should I do anything?" Same shit we deal with in America.

Now, it's great that they've finally apologized (you can read the full text of the speech here). America could take a lesson from here, given that our country yet to apologize, say, slavery. But in the end it's still just words. If you really feel bad about it robbing children from their parents, how about making reparations? No, wait; that won't do, will it former prime minister Paul Keating?
However today, Mr Keating said words were more important than money.
"It is true the report does in some respects focus on compensation," he said.

"The most important thing is the sorry. The most important thing is the national emotional response. I don't believe that these separations or that sadness will ever be settled in a monetary sense.

"It can never be settled in a monetary sense. Far more important in my term was to settle it in an emotional sense and that's what the prime minister and government have done today."

Ah, politics. Where words speak louder than actions.

[Edit] And then there's what Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson had to say:
Some grew increasingly angry as Dr Nelson told Parliament: "Our generation does not own these actions, nor should it feel guilt for what was done in many, but certainly not all cases, with the best intentions."

Members of the crowd jeered and yelled at Dr Nelson to "get off", "go and learn history" and "get your hand off it Brendan".

As he continued, people began to turn their backs and chanted "get him off".

A young Aboriginal man, visibly angered by the speech, called out: "You're a arsehole, no respect."

You shouldn't feel guilty for what you did to the Aborigines? Then what the hell should you feel? Pride? Joy? Nothing at all? See, a normal person should feel bad about this. To brush it all off by saying that someone else did it is inexcusable if you've done nothing to repair the damage done.

And by the way, Dr. Nelson--racism isn't excusable even if someone supposedly has "the best intentions."

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