As one of millions of Australian citizens, I too paused at 9.00am yesterday to listen to the Australian Prime Minister stopping the nation as he delivered the federal parliament’s apology to the “stolen generation” of Aboriginals.
It was very powerful, sobering and to many, a puzzlement given that some still do not believe the bizarre policies were all that bad. Even the Leader of the Opposition’s contribution was equally moving. But coming from a party that did not have its heart in the message, many showed their attitude to the insincerity.
I took a (rare) walk at lunchtime and paused in Sydney’s Martin Place. The huge screen and broadcasting system was repeating the bipartisan message to thousands where it had been given earlier in the morning. Just as the traffic had come to a standstill then, so was the pedestrian mall packed with motionless people impacted by the two leaders’ messages. And I think with feelings of personal guilt. At the end, a very haunting aboriginal song hammered home the sombreness of the occasion. Only the pathetic roving reporter for one of the TV Channels marred the day.
I have argued with myself for a long period as we (in Australia) approached the inevitable apology, feeling that neither I nor any of my generation should be so sorry. I don’t believe that it is right to ask it of us when it was previous generations that perpetrated the wrong and if anything, the current generations saw to its disbandment. I certainly regret the too many years of this part of Australia’s history, but when former Prime Ministers, Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating, Malcom Frazer and others still alive and who were the politicians, legislators, part of the bureaucracy, and others who saw the rules carried out remain silent, where does the guilt really lie? And why aren’t they finding their voice and pleading for forgiveness?
We need to understand and remember that we are judging past generations on our present sets of values. We will be similarly judged.
I guess that the most chilling thing is that all of the inhumanity took place in my lifetime. Perhaps I now have some understanding of how the subsequent generations of Germans and Japanese must have/may have felt regarding what their parents were responsible for during World War 11. That is, if they were/are told about it.
— Posted by Michael Turner