"A critic of the formal apology is Port Lincoln mayor Peter Davis.
He says he can't see it making any difference to the real problems facing Aborigines.
"As for instance granting equal citizenship the 1967 referendum, the same euphoria from the same southern (and I'm not being disrespectful) 'do good' sectors resulted in no real physical or mental better wellbeing for Aboriginal people," he said."
This is probably the same guy who doesn't let his children have a party and cake and singing on their birthdays. What good would it do?
I got a little bit emotional this morning watching it on television. Those stories hurt. I suppose I could understand what Nelson was meaning when he had to blah on about war veterans - that an apology for past actions doesn't mean a blanket of shame over everything - but if you don't understand that by now, then a politician's speech isn't going to educate you.
I think the difficulty that Australians who are against it have with the apology is a lack of understanding of what it means to the Stolen Generations and Aborigines in general. I think that in the decade of silence since the Bringing Them Home report was first issued, John Howard has taught Australians to act their political lives on a purely personal level and encouraged the belief that everyone was entirely responsible for their own circumstances. This equated to an attitude that those in need had, in whatever small way, placed themselves there. They were to blame for their situations. He took this attitude right to the end when he took full responsibility for the Liberals' election defeat.
But his ten years of "You Look Out For Yourself" policy had the effect of telling Australians that they were never, ever wrong, as long as they never admitted it. You can have a four-wheel-drive, as long as you don't feel bad about it. You can buy anything you want (education, health, etc) as long as you earn the money to pay for it.
The Stolen Generations and their request for an apology didn't fit into that brand of "self" politics. John Howard had trained the political hearts of Australians to look no further than their own immediate influences and something as complicated as assenting to an apology on their behalf by a democratically elected government in the present made on behalf of previous governments for now-overturned well-meaning-yet-horrifically-catastrophic policies that have effected all aspects of life for a specific group of people is just too far removed from the Howard-era mindset that truly believes that since they didn't physically take the children away then there's nothing that they can offer. Regret. Sure. That must have been tough, but you were only a little kid and plenty of people have had tough lives and have really pulled their finger out in this great land of opportunity and really made something of themselves.
These people can't get it through their skulls that they are not the ones saying sorry. They are not responsible in the way that Howard has taught them they were (or could be). They are also not the ones who have lived with racism and the pain of decimated families. To paraphrase Brendan Nelson in this morning's speech: I challenge any of those detractors to visit the Aboriginal communities where the results of past Australian governmental policy are all around and truthfully say that they wish they had been born there.
Sorry doesn't fix anything on a practical level, it doesn't bring families back together. But, for the people who needed to hear it, hearing it from the government they needed to hear it from, it does make a difference. It makes it a little bit better.
But what now?
Update: Further quote from Pt Lincoln mayor in a new variation of ABC story: "
"I mean, to me life is a lottery whether one is Aboriginal or black or white or blue or brindle.
"As far as I'm concerned [it] makes no difference; the past is past, we've got to make our life into the future.
"And I can tell you I personally have no sorrying to do, nor have I on behalf of the Port Lincoln community." (bolding mine)
Sort of proves my point really...