It was 18 years ago last weekend that then-PM John Howard moved a Motion of Reconciliation, including an expression of ‘deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.’ (26/8/99). ‘National Sorry Day’ has been held on May 26 since 1998. Next February it will be 10 years since then-PM Kevin Rudd moved a motion of Apology to the Australian ‘Stolen Generation’ (13/2/08). In 1992, the High Court ruled in the historic Mabo decision, recognising native title in Australia; terra nullius was annulled.
White Australia has long been sorry, in every possible way, for the former colony’s wrongs, even wrongs that may not have seemed so wrong at the time, even those wrongs that were committed with best intentions. In hindsight, we are all very sorry and have said so publicly, sincerely. Almost daily, it would seem.
So much apology, so little response.
Indeed, some have been sorry to a fault; the Australian Human Rights Commission entertained the bizarre situation of seeking to right a reverse wrong, when in May 2013 several white QUT students were asked to leave a computer room designated for the exclusive use of indigenous students – and then, on behalf of the single Aboriginal complainant, pursued them for massive damages when they questioned this.
Where was the day that marked that vital, redemptive response to ‘sorry’, the sign that the sorry was heard and accepted, that those wrongs, while never forgotten, would now be laid to rest and ‘forgiven’? And where is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander who could articulate it on behalf of all indigenous peoples? Indeed, would they all consent to it? The failure to close this wound is the ever-bleeding injury that continues to cause all Australians pain. There can be no healing until this is addressed and the wound properly dressed.
Relentless calls for ‘recognition’ and a separately identified group to have a voice in policy making are unhelpful bandages for this wound; ‘recognition’ has been ongoing for decades and policies are now made for all Australians as one nation, as one community. There are no corners of society, government, the law or institutions where Aborigines are discriminated against. There is no greater social taboo than to be perceived as insensitive to Aboriginal culture, history and needs. Such has been the depth and tangible effect of the private and public acts of recognition – and the sorry.
But thanks to thoughtless followers of social media fashion, Australia Day and Captain Cook (via his statue) are under assault, all part of the ‘be sorry for what you have done’ mindset, which claims its authority on the basis of a constantly re-purposed, simplified and magnified racist injustice committed by today’s ancestors against indigenous Australians. Never mind the sorries and the apologies, the recognition and the public repentance, the flogging continues. At least the convicts in young Australia who endured their floggings could expect it to end.
The flogging doesn’t end until the flogger is satisfied and the crime is seen as punished. Just as a prison sentence, once served, settles the debt with society. Or as a penalty, once paid, acquits the offence, without erasing it.
Each year, the Australian taxpayer puts in repentance money to the tune of billions of dollars for Aboriginal affairs. Bureaucracies have been created and are annually fattened with the express purpose of shovelling money through the Aborigine industry towards the Aboriginal people in efforts to provide equality of opportunity as well as to bring equality of outcome to the parts of that community that have never taken part in general society, or are disengaged from it. Cashless welfare cards and all…
Meanwhile, many indigenous individuals have, of course, stepped onto the ladder of opportunity afforded by the institutions and support mechanisms of contemporary Australia. There are Aboriginal sportsmen and women, filmmakers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians (since 1971) and writers, actors, media figures – and of course famous painters. Indigenous people are highly visible.
But the agitation and the activism and the victimhood has continued, enabled by a hapless political class, encouraged by an eager Aborigine industry and hangers-on who see not only political mileage in the ‘struggle’ but lots of money. Perhaps ‘sorry day’ should be re-christened ‘sorry for myself day’, to properly describe how the manipulators of white guilt have twisted the role of helping the Aborigine cause into helping their own.
Otherwise, how to explain the continued existence of those remote communities that are engulfed in alcohol, drugs, violence and lawlessness, and where children are collateral damage every day? Threatened with the dreaded ‘racist’ epithet, we are not even able to safeguard these children. When I say ‘we’, I mean the Australian community, the black and the white and the brown, the bureaucrat and the politician, the citizen and the Aboriginal community spokesman. We are rendered helpless in the face of this human disaster by the scare tactics of self-appointed misguided moral guardians.
This is reminiscent of the Palestinians, whose power-loving, self-serving, ideologically frigid leadership would be made redundant if they negotiated peace with Israel. So the Palestinian people are fed propaganda and the Israelis are demonised to perpetuate the conflict. And the Palestinian people still live in utter misery, thanks to their so-called leadership, or spokesmen (yes, only men.)
When people say ‘sorry’ to one another, it is an incomplete act, until it is answered by ‘accepted – you’re forgiven’.
Until that happens, Australia is cursed to a grim Groundhog Day of guilt and remorse, without forgiveness, without remedy or redemption, always pressed for yet more compensation, yet more sorry fodder. Worst of all, all this with no improvement in the quality of the lives of those on whose behalf this black charade is played.
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