Twelve years after the ‘Bringing Them Home‘ report, 16 years after Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, 18 years after the High Court rescinded the doctrine of terra nullius, and 41 years after their removal from the flora and fauna list, there will be an apology to Indigenous Australians for past injustices. It’s probably no surprise to anyone reading this that I’m in favour.
The ABC has recently started allowing comments on some stories on its site. The comments there are mostly (but not entirely) negative. So on the off-chance that anyone is reading this who isn’t in favour of an apology, let me dissect the usual reasons given for such a view:
- ‘We have nothing to apologise for’…
- … because it didn’t happen. [It happened. Even the people who did it admit it happened.]
- … because we didn’t do it, it was our grandparents, and we aren’t responsible for their actions. [No, not personally liable, and no one has claimed that we are. But if we’re going to claim ‘those brave wounded heroes of Suvla’ and the ‘rats of Tobruk’ we’d better be prepared to claim the people who put the arsenic in the flour too.]
- … because it was for their own good, to give them a better life. [Try arguing that it’s a good government policy to compulsorily acquire the children of anyone earning less than, say, $20,000 a year, to place them in orphanages and give them jobs as servants of rich people.]
- … because it was a different time and standards were different. [Yes. And so let’s show just how much we reject the benevolent bigotry that embraced those policies. Let’s show just how different those standards and that time was.]
- Terrible things happened, but if we apologise,
- we admit personal responsibility… [no we don’t. Admitting that the government of the day had policies which were racist, and perhaps even acknowledging that those policies have had effects which continue to the present, is not of itself an admission of responsibility. Come off it. We know who drafted the legislation. We know who passed it. We know who enacted it. AND we know who repealed it.]
- and financial liability. [This seems to me to be incredibly petty and mean-spirited. But if we want to talk money, how about repaying the wages that weren’t paid, for a start?]
If anyone has any other reasons, let me know.
Do I think it’ll change things? To be honest, no. Australians are great at “forgetting”. But it’s the first concrete action that’s been taken for a very long time.