Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Australia says sorry

I read today that Kevin Rudd, Australia's new Prime Minister apologized to the aboriginal people for the policies of past governments. What a huge massive step, a huge, positive step, and yet I can't help wondering about all those ruined lives. Did you know aborigines were only taken off the natural fauna list in the 1970s?

Maybe you aren't familiar with what the governments did? I was only aware of the practice after the wonderful, but heartbreaking, book, Rabbit-proof Fence.

The authorities removed the children from their parents, put them in orphanages, foster homes, to essentially try and de-black them and destroy their culture. A man called Frank Byrne tells his story of being taken/stolen from his mother when he was five years old for the BBC.

As a parent it makes me think. What would I do under the threat of having my children removed from me? Well to be honest I'd do pretty much anything, as most parents would. The protective instincts of parents is life and death strong. So what would you do if it happened to you? If you had absolutely no choice? Frank's mom went insane and died six years later.

There is the other side of the coin. Many people would say 'how can we be blamed for the actions of the past?' My dad makes a good point. Many British military personnel were conscripts, and even those who weren't were shot for cowardice if they disobeyed an order.

It made the British Empire great.

Last year some of the WWI soldiers shot for cowardice in the trenches for refusing orders (who were probably suffering PTSD/shell shock) were pardoned.

So who should apologize to whom? To be honest I'm not sure it matters. Reconciliation has to begin somewhere. The people in power making the policies must take responsibility, and those who vote them in must also take responsibility.

Holding onto the past isn't good for anyone, but learning from past mistakes--that can only make our world better.

1 comment:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, Toni. Pledging to learn from our mistakes and to not repeat them can only make the world better.

    The First Nations in Canada suffered under a similar fate with the residential schools. A horrible thing to have happened. Not something I'm proud of.