Now he's come out and defended that decision:
FORMER prime minister John Howard has defended his decision not to say sorry to Australia's Aborigines during his 11 years in power and criticised the Rudd Government's apology to the stolen generations.
In a take-no-prisoners question and answer session with students at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Mr Howard said he did not believe that one generation could apologise for the actions of another, and, anyway, some children had been removed from their parents for good reason and others were given up voluntarily.
"I do not believe as a matter of principle that one generation can accept responsibility for the acts of earlier generation," he said. "In some cases, children were wrongly removed, in other cases they were removed for good reason, in other cases they were given up and in other cases, the judgement on the removal is obscure or difficult to make."
I find this attitude, common among libertarians and conservatives, that the present-day population cannot be held accountable for the atrocities of the past, to be abhorrent. Why do you insist on letting these wounds fester and linger just because someone else inflicted them? Kevin Rudd himself might not have snatched Aborigine babies from their cribs in the night, but the country he represents did--and the country needs to make clear that it regrets having done so. The effects of actions like child-snatching, or slavery, or Jim Crow, or apartheid, echo throughout multiple generations. They don't only affect the people who were victims at the time, but also their children and their children's children. You can't sweep that all under the rug by saying "Well, that all happened in the past." No! Its effects are still happening today!
And don't even get me started on the "stealing their babies was a good thing in some cases, maybe it's a gray area."
Mr Howard warned that an apology also ran the risk of people thinking they had now "ticked the box" on action to redress the problems of indigenous Australia, which he said included unacceptably high mortality compared to whites.
This is a valid issue: just an apology is not enough. There must be more action taken to address the woes of these people, and we should let no-one think otherwise. However, that is no reason to avoid apologizing in addition to working towards bettering their condition.