Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Fri 15th Feb, 2008

We're all sorry

Kate and I went to (New) Parliament House on Thursday to witness the government saying sorry to the Stolen Generation. Actually, we went to the front lawn between Old and New Parliament Houses, because there was no room in the Grand Hall. We watched on big screens as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said sorry - personally, and as a member of parliament and as the leader of Australia. That got a big cheer from the audience; his speech was very well received and, in my perhaps biased opinion, was very well written.

Brendan Nelson started well but quickly lost his way. His job was never going to be easy, having been under the thumb of a man who ruled his party with an iron fist and refused absolutely to apologise. His basic error was to try and excuse his party's previous views, which required him to justify them; no-one had come to hear this. There was much jeering, clapping to drown him out (useless when you're several hundred metres away watching a broadcast, but impossible to deny the urge) and people turned their backs on him. I eventually felt that I too could not support him by appearing to be interested and turned my back, as futile as it was. He did, rescue himself in some minor degree by finishing by saying sorry.

I also found it amusing that that rabies-infested pit-bull of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, found that the only way to criticise the Rudd government was to say that they weren't going far enough in saying sorry and should be giving away money. So now he's not only completely contradicting his own party's previous policies, but doing it in a way which makes him personally look small. Great work, Tony. Keep it up.

The article on living in homeless shelters for five days that Mikal Still referred to makes a reasonable case for giving money as well as other, more policy and planning focussed ways of bring equality to the Aboriginal community. The point made is that money might not solve all the problems, and it might slip into the wrong hands, but it solves a whole lot more problems than the individual hand-outs and concessions can. But Kevin Rudd made the excellent point that giving money to individuals in this situation is going to make far less difference to the Aboriginal society as a whole than to put that same amount of money into health care, jobs, education and training. In my opinion, we also need a whole lot of work done on the media to reverse the 'Aboriginal Cringe' that we have in Australia. Once an Aboriginal, or any person who doesn't look like they grew up in Europe, can walk into any company and not be seen as an outsider, then we really will have progressed.

Saying Sorry is important, but it's still a step on a long road.

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