13 February 2008

Of beauty rich and rare

As a healthy middle-class, white, university-educated, employed woman, whose ancestors immigrated from England, Scotland and Ireland well over a century ago, I've always felt my great good fortune in being an Australian. Life may be a struggle sometimes, but in essence, together with my extended family, my friends and the community I am privileged to be part of, I have little to really complain about. If something goes wrong, I have the resources and support to do something about it.

Our Governor General noted yesterday at the opening of our 42nd parliament that we are blessed to live in country which can change its government without bloodshed, and for the most part with goodwill.

I felt that good fortune and goodwill today in being one of millions of Australians to witness a pivotal moment in our history - our new Prime Minister offering a heartfelt, unequivocal apology to the indigenous people of this land. It has been a long time coming, and not a moment too soon. And importantly, he expressed sorry as a place to start, not as an end in itself.

I found it a moving moment to share with my own children too. Even my five year old understands that our prime minister is saying sorry for previous generations taking children away from their parents. I'm sure that as my kids grow older, they'll refer back to today when we discuss our country's history.

Of course, this being a democracy, not everyone agrees that sayng sorry has been the right thing to do. As well as some unconvinced opposition politicans who didn't participate in the motion before parliament, or who offered a strained response to Kev's apology, there have been some dissenting voices among the general population. Like the author of a letter to the editor in today's Age newspaper, who believes he "might be owed an apology [because] possibly one of my ancestors was poorly treated, beaten and lived in harsh conditions for being suspected of eating bread that was not theirs".

Besides it being a stretch to compare these two experiences, surely the point is that, for indigenous Australians, today's apology is about experiences within living, painful memory for an entire community of people, who are dealing with the ramifications of our actions on a daily basis. A true apology shouldn't have to be conditional.



Amelia said...

for the first time in a long time an australian prime minister has given me occasion to feel proud - the sorry speech and addressing the chinese government in manadarin. really pleased.

delamare said...

yes - and they keep doing pleasing things too! Did you see Catherine Delaney's recent column in The Age about their decency?