Today was historical. I mean, really historical. Today was one of those days where you could honestly say that it felt good to be an Australian citizen.
And you know, it really did feel good to just come out and say it.
For the benefit of those reading this blog from outside Australia who are wondering what the big deal is, our federal government finally summoned the balls to apologise to what is now referred to the Stolen Generations.
The Stolen Generations were a large number of Australia's indigenous population who were separated from their parents forcibly under government policy between 1869 and 1969.
Australia's indigenous peoples fall loosely under the title of the Aboriginal people, who were really, prior to European settlement, a collection of between 350 to 750 different peoples, and the Torres Strait Islanders, who are really ethnically a Papuan people. But also, technically, aboriginal to the islands of the Torres Strait, a body of water that separates the Australian continent from the island of New Guinea.
The flags at the top of this post represent the two groups.
The first one is the Aboriginal flag. Supposedly, the black represents the people, the red represents the land and the yellow represents the sun, although the flag's designer, Harold Thomas, was never this specific.
The second one is the Torres Strait Islander flag. The green lines represent the land, and the blue represents the water of Torres Strait. The thin black lines represent the people. The five pointed star is supposed to represent the five main island groups, and lastly there is a white headdress which is used in Torres Strait Islander ceremonies. Bernard Namok was the flag's designer.
But on to sorry.
The legal profession really has a lot to answer for. Thanks to shyster plaintiff lawyers and idiot judges, the word "sorry" is now a dirty word from a legal perspective. Supposedly, if you say sorry, it's seen as an admission of guilt.
This is such a load of crap. For starters, take funerals. When you go up to someone who has lost a loved one and you say, "I'm sorry," we're now expected to believe that you are now assuming responsibility for the death itself. Never mind if you were on the other side of the world at the time.
And so it has been with the act of apologising to the Stolen Generations.
Former Prime Minister John Howard refused to apologise on two grounds:
- That to apologise would be an admission of guilt, and this would raise the question of compensation which could prove expensive; and
- Further to the above point, such an apology would involve current Australians assuming responsibility for the acts of other Australians long since gone.
This was always a very dodgy pair of premises, and it wasn't going to fly either with indigenous Australia, or non-indigenous Australians. It should be noted that Howard was a lawyer by training, and sadly, this probably meant that he couldn't see past the straitjacket that the legal profession has put around apologising generally.
Current PM Kevin Rudd is not a lawyer. He's a diplomat by training, and diplomats live or die by their pragmatism. Consequently, the act of apologising comes naturally to him. Not only that, as a recently elected Prime Minister, Rudd needs to start honouring election promises, and newly elected PM's traditionally issue grand statements.
And as far as grand statements go, this ranks as a ginormous motherfucker. Like, we're talking Gettysburg Address big.
Rudd's apology was agreed to multilaterally (with some reservations) by both sides of Parliament, and this is what Rudd said when he addressed Parliament this morning at 9AM.
Befitting this occasion, the current Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, also made a speech. We can probably say that after the pandemonium and uproar that his speech created, Nelson has effectively written his Last Will and Testament as Opposition Leader, and frankly, I don't see him lasting a full six months in the role.
It is clear that the former PM's influence is still far-reaching, and the Liberal Party really needs to wake up to themselves if they want to grab power again in the near future.
But now the focus is back on the Government again. Words are meaningless if they're not backed up by action. Let's hope Rudd manages to put something positive in place, because our indigenous community really needs it. And let's face it: it would be unacceptable to all Australians if non-indigenous Australia was forced to make another apology.