more than sorry

This morning, I lay in bed, off work because of a chest infection that has knocked me for six, and listened to the radio. I wanted to be at work today because we would have had a special morning tea in honor of the occcasion and I would have been sitting at a desk with the Australian flag, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag right behind me. But today I lay under the doona and listened as others about the house drifted in and out, ssh, we said to Grace, inside voice only, ssh, this is important. You could hear the wheels of history turn as our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said sorry.

He started by honouring the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history and then reflected in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations.... It seemed like a long time and then he came to these words...

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.

Full text here.

Candles form the words "Sorry, The First Step" on the lawn outside Parliament House in Canberra on Monday, February 11, 2008, to commemorate the apology to the stolen generation that will be made on February 13.

The motion was tabled on the first day on parliament yesterday and passed today. Crowds packed the Gallery, the Great Hall and the lawns outside. People also gathered in capital cities and smaller towns. You could sense the momentousness of the occasion from the spoken words alone.

I was overwhelmed by tears myself several times.There's been a lot of tears today, I imagine. Like always, there were times I thought Kevin Rudd was long winded and pompous and yet he really connected; he asked us to walk in the shoes of those children who were stolen from their families, their mothers, their families. I loved how at one point he spoke directly of and to mothers, speaking of the brutality of separating a mother from her children. As a mother myself, the very thought of my child being taken by strangers chills me to the core. He asked us to walk in the shoes of another, to feel compassion and humanity. He spoke of the Indigenious Australians who came first, of the first European settlers and all those who have come since. He said sorry, As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification.

Then Kevin Rudd talked about what to do next, of early childhood education and health care in even the most remote indigenous communities, of halving the gap in life expectancy between black and white austalians within a generation. Big goals, but as he said, not impossible. I'm not going to talk about the Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson's speech because he although he apologised, he included points he shouldn't have and his speech missed the point. I'm not surprised at the response he recieved.

Anyway amongst the tears this morning, to hear the standing ovation Kevin Rudd received, to hear reports from people who were there; the sense of celebration was paplpable. Can we hope that this is part of a new begining as nation? That doing the right thing and apologising for these past wrongs is setting us on a path towards being a better, more equitable, more caring and compassionate society? I'm going to hold onto those thoughts for a while because today, I feel prouder of being an Australian than I have for a long time. 

I am sorry.


Stomper Girl said...

It's big, isn't it? Something to remember. I've been all for it and yet I'm still surprised by how much emotion his speech and the significance of this day aroused in me. And then due to swimming lessons I missed the whole Nelson speech. But like you I don't want this day dragged down my his lack of judgement.
And I had to shush my small child during the speech too, he told me off afterwards for not listening to him.

suse said...

I heard Rudd's speech and got all teary and proud, then only heard the first few minutes of Nelson's (owing to have to go in the door at work, etc) but it felt like justifications were going on alongside the apology. In Nelson's speech, I mean. What was the reaction? I won't be able to see the news tonight either ... thanks to yoga class.
It felt like an important day in our history, didn't it? And the beginning of a new era. Let's hope they follow through and it's not just waffle and spin.

Marg said...

I didn't get to hear the speech today, but even just reading the text makes me feel emotional and proud.

Carolyn said...

I felt excited leading up to the day. Unfortunately missed hearing the speech live (bloody work!) but felt very moved by how emotional other people were telling me about it, including school kids. I think it was a very significant day for Australia.

Laura J R said...

Wasn't it great! I too felt prouder and more grown up about being an Australian on Feb 13 than I have for many a year.
I work with many Indigenous people as clients and I was very moved by the day. Beautifully worded.
Thanks Kevin. Job well done. It means a lot to all of us.

Saha said...

sorry, I tagged you for a meme!

Jennifer said...

Downloaded speech on my laptop here in VN. Felt a new beginning for Australia: less materialism and self-centredness - hopefully more compassion for others less fortunate. About time.

blue milk said...

Wasn't it just incredible.. and man you wrote this post so well, one of the best posts on the day that I've read.

Craft Fairy X said...

You have been kissed by the craft fairy.