Published on 13 May 2008
News Item on Australian Government Apology to Aboriginal People
Apology to Australian Aboriginal People part of a flow of Government Apologies in the Pacific Region, including to Samoan people, and to Mãori Tribes.
Apologies are a recent response to support the reconciliation process. They are intended to heal past wrongs on the part of governments who have exercised state powers to destroy the cohesion of indigenous peoples, or suppress initiatives for independence.
Although graciously received, the apologies are part of a long journey to achieve recognition of the losses of Indigenous peoples, and to restoring the social and political fabric of these nations.
Apology to Australian Aboriginal People
On February 13th, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made a formal apology to Australian Aboriginal people who were taken from their families as children, otherwise known as the ’Stolen Generation’.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, left, speaks with aboriginal elder Matilda House at the opening of the new Session of Parliament, February 2008
In the early 1900’s Australia’s ’Protection Policies’ consisted of a removing non full-blood Aboriginal children from their families and placing them in institutions where they were expected to learn European values, integrate into white culture and breed with whites and other non full-blood Aborigines - essentially wipe out full-blooded Aboriginals. These policies were eventually abandoned in the 1960s (around the timeAboriginal people were finally granted citizen status in 1967).
Previous Prime Minister, John Howard, refused to make an apology, stating the Australians today cannot be held responsible for the actions of their predecessors...
Recently elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, after reading the apology, spoke of removing a "stain from the soul of Australia". It was given without commitment to compensation.
Apology from NZ to Samoa
This apology in Australia can be seen as part of a recent flow of apologies in this region. Prime Minister Helen Clark apologized to Samoa for the loss of life of 25% of the population in 1918, when passengers on a ship from New Zealand were allowed to disembark carrying a lethal strain of influenza, for the killing of the leaders of the Mau Independence movement during a peaceful march, and for ‘dawn raids’ which were carried out on ‘overstayers’ when they had been given entry to the country for work purposes.
Apologies to Mãori Tribes
A further series of formal apologies have been offered to Mãori tribes in the Waitangi Tribunal settlement process, in respect of grievances for land taken, the fragmentation of tribal organization and authority, educational opportunities denied and the susceptibility to disproportionate loss of life and health through out the colonial settlement period.
As people of the Pacific, join in recognition of the Australian apology with a mixture of deep relief and respect for a long overdue gesture towards reconciliation and healing, accompanied by hope for policies for restoration and renewal for Aboriginal communities and peoples. Such hope is not accompanied by compensation nor with responsibility for restoration at this stage.
For those who have done so much to bring this symbolic event about, and who will continue to work for justice. We applaud your work and extend solidarity. Celebration of this momentous day is infused with historical reflection and grief.