Wasn’t that the most eloquent and compassionate of apologies given?
I, like a number of people actually found myself in tears, and I’m not even an Australian. I grew up at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and I watched as the world there changed. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up while I was still living there, and it was quite interesting, and in some cases, horrific, to see and hear what had been done to the black and coloured South Africans. Of course, since there had been white colonisation 350 years ago, a number of white South Africans considered themselves as much as a part of the landscape as anybody else. It was just the way the ruling parties managed to get their racial superiority into effect (much like it is still active in parts of the US), and it all went downhill from there. Since my family was involved in anti-apartheid resistance, we had black marks against us, and therefore, when it all ended. We were relieved. Only, with the incoming head of the ANC and possibly the next President of South Africa, is the vision of Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation” in serious jeopardy.
The roar of applause that met Rudd’s conclusion was similar to that which greeted Mandela in 1990. The hope for change, for something to be done. Not just for blacks, or whites, as it was so blatantly called back then, but for everybody. Of course, there are still those that believe that the colour of their skin allows them to all sorts of rights, and sometimes this pandering can actually do more damage to the society than good. As is the case in New Zealand, where it is taken to ridiculous ends, and the overcompensation has become a huge farce. (The seabed and foreshore issue just made matters worse. Especially since the treaty is legally invalid after 100 years, and yet, they still keep on claiming. Yes, there were a few stolen generations in New Zealand, between the 1860’s and 1920’s, when even Maori was banned from being spoken (this was in effect until at least the 1970’s), but the compensation claims coming out of the treaty reparations stand as a warning to the Australian government of what not to do.
They followed the apology with some interest across the Ditch. My mother phoned me soon after the speeches (Brendon Nelson, wtf?! why?!) with the kiwi view. it’s all good and well she said – the Apology was very necessary. The need for Parliament to acknowledge the inhuman actions of the past was long overdue yes, but lets just hope that actions are now taken, that the “re-compensation” that is now being bandied around comes in the form of practical things, like hospitals, health clinics, and other tangible services that can benefit the community as a whole, not inordinate sums of money that’s never actually going to be used for something good.
And then there’s this… Some blogger wrote that Australia was a nation of bogans. (This was written after the Australian(s) of the year were announced. A country singer and a motorcyclist… yes, I can understand that). But responses like that show the the large majority of red-necked Australians don’t have enough empathy to understand why that “Sorry” was so important. Or maybe, they’re terrified that now that the past has been acknowledged, that what the government may try and do to atone for its sins will leave them out in the cold. Coming from NZ, I can see how their reaction is how it is. Like I said, the Kiwis have taken things to extreme.
But King Kev… at the beginning of the year, a political commentator was commenting on the virtues of having a PM that kept all his election promises. Such a creature could be considered of the same ilk as a unicorn or even a kneazle: a mythical creature. So maybe King Kev will keep this apology promise too – to do something, not just make it all go away by giving money to people to make them happy. Money doesn’t make anybody happy in the reparations department – it just makes people greedy.
But for now, we have one Australia. And its beautiful. I will enjoy the unity permeating the capital while its still hear, and hope, that nothing more taints this apology. I think Brendan Nelson did quite enough himself yesterday.