National Sorry Day – A Rant (you have been warned)
The following article represents the opinion of the writer, and does not reflect the thoughts of anybody else associated with, or part of, Fernby Films.
Article by Rodney Twelftree
A lot of words have been said about the treatment of Australia’s indigenous population, the Aboriginal tribes. Until today, not one of them have been the word “sorry”. Todays parliamentary unity and sense of occasion at this national sore being finally bandaged was profound. No doubt a lot of people had longed to hear the words uttered by newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
I was not one of them.
Fact: I was not alive when the government of the time decided to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their parents homes.
Fact: What was done then, was, at the time, thought to be the best for the welfare of the children. White culture, rightly or wrongly, saw the Aboriginal people as a lesser race, a collective of sub-humans that ought to be protected from something: themselves.
Fact: I do not accept that it is our current governments responsibility to apologise for the actions of past political machinations, no matter how abhorrent. I do not expect the German government today to apologise to the Jews for the actions of the Nazi party in 1930’s Germany. Why, therefore, would we expect the same from the government today?
Fiction: The compensation to the victims of the “Stolen Generation”, as they like to vociferously claim at length, will not be paid. Pigs might fly tomorrow, too.
Fiction: Australia will now embrace the Aboriginal culture and people within it as part of their own, overlooking decades of neglect and bigotry towards them as a way of reconcilliation for the future.
It must be said, that while I disagree with the government in their belief that they should apologise, I do understand why we as a country are compelled to do so. Australia was founded on the back of a genocidal practice of extermination and subjugation; the English settlers and convicts came here and essentially shot at, raped, murdered and bludgeoned the Aboriginal culture of yesteryear back to the Dreamtime. While we acknowledge these actions, is it right that we now, generations later, have to pay for that?
I feel that the Aboriginal community in Australia have, to a certain extent, determined themselves to be pariahs, martyrs for the cause of the villified and persecuted. Their attitude, while no doubt seemingly understandable, is blatantly smacking of hipocrisy. They want, they want, and they take, take; yet the Aboriginal community seems reluctant to try changing their ways. They do not seem to want to accept any assistance our government gives them. Instead, the actions of a few seem to focus on throwing it all back in our faces. [Am I being hypercritical here? Is this too general a statement to warrant argument?]
While I accept that their culture is dying out, remaining popular only due to interest in their dot art and wood carvings, it would behoove the Aboriginal community as a whole to make a determined effort to creep slowly into the present day. It would be impossible to step up and ask all us white folk to bugger off, and for us to actually do it: therefore, why not join with our culture? Accept that two cultures have to coexist, and get on with it.
It is possible for both cultures to coexist: if they truly want to. If you want equality, if you want reconciliation, you have to be prepared to work for it. White Australians are sick of seeing their tax dollars going out in trucks to far flung Aboriginal communities to pay for cars that get set alight, homes that get torn down, and booze that ends with the abuse and destruction of the very culture you puport to revere.
Its not the alcohol that is destroying your culture; it’s your dependence upon it. Aboriginal people claim to be proud: no doubt some are – yet every day we hear reports of abuse, violence and destruction of property that has been handed to you to make something of yourselves.
While I respect the claims the Aboriginal people have to what they see as their sacred land, it is hard to see past the spiteful and secretive way that compensation is selectively wanted.
The Stolen Generation, those who were removed from their families for whatever reason (some would say very good reasons, such as rape and abuse) deserve some closure, yet I do not understand why a current government, removed by decades from the people who perpetrated these acts, needs to apologise for them to recieve it. I, personally, feel remorse for those who are victims. I empathise with their feelings of abandanment and loss. I just watch Rabbit Proof Fence to appreciate the feelings of the time.
But for crying out loud, can’t we just get on with it? The Aboriginal people, whatever their future may hold, will look back on this day with relish that finally, vindication has come their way. The rest of this country will look back and say: right, we’ve given you your apology… now, what are you going to make of yourselves now that you haven’t got something to whinge about?
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