I’m Sorry

26 February 2008

On Wednesday 13th the Parliament of Australia issued an official apology to the Stolen Generation – thousands of mainly mixed race children who were taken away from their parents in the hope that their “Aboriginality” would be bred out.  Many of these children never saw their parents again.  A lot of these children are younger than me.  This isn’t some Dickensian practice where we can all shake our heads in wonder that people were so stupid/harsh/ignorant/unsympathetic in Victorian England.  This was happening in modern Australia.

I wanted to blog about this on Sorry Day but because of numerous internet problems we’ve had lately, I didn’t have access to my blog for ages.  But I hope you’ll allow me to revisit it now as I feel it’s such an important issue and people are still arguing about whether this apology should have taken place.    

So many previous Prime Ministers have said that we can’t say Sorry for something WE didn’t do.  Why should I be forced to feel guilt for something over which I personally had no control.  A writer in the Sydney Morning Herald last week said that we would say Sorry to a friend whose father had died, without it being seen as an admission that we were somehow involved in his demise.  I’m desperately sorry about what happened during the Holocaust but I played no part in it and as far as I’m aware, I know of nobody who did. 

Australia and the rest of the world will now have to admit that these things did happen, we’re sorry they happened and we will all do everything in our power to ensure that it never happens again.

This won’t make everything right.  Aboriginal Australians still have a life expectancy of only about 56 years, most of them live in abject poverty, are suffering diseases more commonly seen in the Third World and have very few opportunities in this, their country.   When we came to this land, we took away their independence, their culture and traditions.  We practically enslaved them.  We poisoned their dogs so that they wouldn’t be able to hunt properly so they would be dependent on white Europeans for their very existence.  We made them work for little or no money and I’ve even read stories of Aboriginal workers being killed when their work was done so that they wouldn’t have to be paid. 

The last massacre of Aboriginal Australians was in Coniston in 1928!  I’ve met one of the few survivors of that massacre. 

I don’t feel personally responsible for the plight of Aboriginals, either then or now.  But I’m truly sorry that they have suffered at the hands of my ancestors.  I hope they will accept this and many more apologies in the spirit in which they’re intended.    




  1. Well said. I’ve felt similarly.

    I am a US citizen by birth, but 3 generations ago, my family was in Eastern Europe. I am in no way responsible for reprehensible things done to our Native American population or for the enslavement of others. These things happened long before my family immigrated here. They were wrong, they were shameful acts, but I will not feel responsibility or guilt. Nor will I ever support reparation to current generations. It would be a shameful act for anyone today to use their ancestors’ suffering for personal profit. We all need to “do everything in our power to ensure that it never happens again.”

    Again, well said on a topic that needs saying.

  2. I think the UK should do the same for all those children who were sent to Australia (and Canada) right up to the 1960s. Told that their parents were dead or didn’t want them, used as slave labour, rootless and unloved. Again, as Sally says, this is in my lifetime – how would I have coped with it?

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