15 February 2014

I'm sorry... such a powerful phrase when we mean it

It has been six years since the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples was delivered on 13 February 2008 to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for past laws, policies and practices which affected the lives of Australia’s First Nations Peoples and Stolen Generations.

The department has marked the occasion with a display of the National Apology in the Education House foyer, which is also available to read hereI have reprinted the transcript of these historic words below.

Aboriginal Mosaic In Forecourt Of Parliament House, Canberra, Australia*
The apology has enormous significance for Indigenous Australians and every year at this time there is discussion in the media about whether we as a nation and as individuals really have embraced these words and moved closer to resolving the injustices of the past and harnessing the determination of all Australians to close the gap in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. Many would argue that no, we haven't. In six years we haven't moved any closer to this goal, and one has to wonder how long it will take.

The education of children is instrumental in achieving this goal. At Peregian Springs we have only a small population of Indigenous children - and many would question what the plight of Indigenous peoples has to do with us. It has everything to do with all of us. Understanding the Apology and acting on its principles is about the health and prosperity of all Australians, no matter where they come from or for how long their families have resided in this country.

We acknowledge country at Assembly every week and I long for the day when one of our Indigenous children will feel they can welcome country. We assess and check the educational achievement of every child; we monitor absences from school; we teach the cross curriculum demands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures; we recognise and celebrate Indigenous peoples' special days and we are trying to do our bit.

Is it enough? Probably not - in fact almost certainly not. It's an area that requires constant attention and development. We've said we're sorry and these are powerful words. Powerful words can lead to even more powerful intentions - but they are only powerful if we mean it and being sorry translates into actions.

The transcript:
 I move:
That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
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.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

* Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. http://year3history.edublogs.org/indigenous-art-forms/

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Gwen. A wonderful reminder of how far we have come but how far we need to go.