We Are Sorry

This past Saturday, February the 13th 2021, marked 13 years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to Indigenous Australians for the cruelty, brutality and injustice that they had been treated with in the past, since Australia had been colonised and settled by England.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

Prime minister Kevin Rudd MP, 2008

I was teaching in a secondary school in South Gippsland at the time, in fact the school I had gone to, in the town I was born and raised in. We played the apology on a big screen in one of the computer rooms, for any students and staff that wanted to watch.

I truly felt like I was witnessing history.

Of course, in a sense we’re all witnessing history all the time. I mean, especially at this time as we deal with the COVID pandemic. But, watching the apology I felt like I was watching a turning point in my countries history. A moment we would talk about as been significant well into the future.

Unfortunately, 13 years on, I don’t feel that the apology to the Indigenous people of Australia came with any real, lasting change. Perhaps you disagree with me. And, I admit that I grew up in a very racially homogenous place, and still live in a very racially homogenous place. Perhaps if I lived somewhere more diverse, with more Aboriginal people as my friends and neighbours, I would have seen something different. But, from my point of view, the apology turned out to be a bit…empty.

When we teach the history of this country there is, rightly, a lot we can all be proud of. There is also, rightly, a lot we can be ashamed of. For me I’ve seen what I often teach my children, an apology without change means very little.

Do you remember Kevin Rudd’s apology? How did you feel about it then? How do feel about it now?

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