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14 February 2008


australia society


Righting Past Wrongs

Yesterday’s apology to the Stolen Generation was a very moving and hugely significant moment in Australian history. For most of my life the many problems of Aboriginal people in this country have seemed intractable, even hopeless. This is the first time in many, many years that visible and meaningful progress has been made. I hope the importance of the occasion is adequately reflected in the global news coverage.

The speech itself (video) deserves special mention I think. It pleases me greatly that Kevin Rudd found just the right words to represent my view and (I hope) that of most other right-thinking Australians. Worth a listen.

Local news coverage has of course been blanket, and peppered with the obligatory contrasting views.

The most famous of the contrary views is that of the ex-PM John Howard who notoriously claimed that he saw no reason to apologise for past deeds because they were committed by a previous generation. This has a simple, possibly obvious rebuttal, but I have not heard it mentioned in the media so I’ll state it here.

If (hypothetical) you wish to renounce the wrongdoings of the past, you are free to do so. However, to be consistent you must also renounce the achievements of the past.

Can you imagine John Howard renouncing the sacrifices and achievements of the ANZACs? His past sporting heroes? His hero Robert Menzies? No, I can’t either. However it is necessary to do so in order to avoid the responsibility for the Stolen Generation.

In simple terms, you have to take the good with the bad.

For Aboriginal Australia, the good has been in short supply of late, and it’s very gratifying to see signs of change.


Posted by
2008-02-13 23:23:00 -0600

The political fallout of this event will be interesting. It strikes me that a big winner of this speech is Malcolm Turnbull, whose public and vocal support for the apology contrasts drastically with the equivocation from Brendon Nelson.