Australia says ‘sorry’ to Aborigines

Updated on Feb 14, 2008 03:41 AM IST

The apology is directed at the tens of thousands of Aborigines who were forcibly taken from their families as children under now-abandoned assimilation policies.

HT Image
HT Image
AP | ByRohan Sullivan, Canberra

Australia apologised on Wednesday to its indigenous people for past suffering in a watershed Parliament vote broadcast at school assemblies, on giant TV screens in cities and at breakfast barbecues in Aboriginal communities in the Outback. Lawmakers unanimously adopted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s motion on behalf of all Australians that, “We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.”

Supporters said the apology would open an new chapter in race relations.

The apology was directed at the tens of thousands of Aborigines who were forcibly taken from their families as children under now-abandoned assimilation policies.

“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry,” the motion said. “And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

In Parliament’s public galleries and at gatherings large and small around the country, victims of the assimilation policies and their supporters listened intently as Rudd spoke. Many wept quietly. In Sydney, traditional cleansing ceremonies were held in the predominantly Aboriginal suburb of Redfern before the broadcast on a giant screen. Parents clutched children on their knees, some waving Australian and Aboriginal flags.

“Sorry heals the heart and it goes deep,” said Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, an Aborigine among the crowd. “This really means a big thing to us _ a weight that can be lifted so that we can start our healing.”

At Australia Street Infant School elsewhere in the city, more than 60 preschoolers and parents watched the speech at a special assembly, and the school planned a giant painting of each child’s hand print to mark the occasion.

Karen Donnelly said she wanted her three-year-old daughter Zara “to be able to reflect later on what happened, and to be a part of history.”

In the Outback town of Broome on the far northwest coast, dozens gathered before dawn at a high school to watch the speeches in Canberra on television via a scratchy feed.

“I’m glad it’s come this far,” local Aborigine Justin Howard told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “But it’s not going to stop here, there is still going to be that hurt.”

Rudd said Australians had reached a time in their history when they must face up to their past to be able to cope with the future.

“To deal with this unfinished business of the nation,” Rudd said. “To remove a great stain from the nation’s soul and in the true spirit of reconciliation to open a new chapter in the history of this great land Australia.”

“It’s great to get behind what the government’s trying to do; bring black and white Australians together,” said William Murray, a non-indigenous 17-year-old student who traveled to Sydney to witness the occasion.

“This is a historic day,” said Tom Calma, who was selected by Stolen Generations organisations to give a formal response to the apology. “Today our leaders across the political spectrum have chosen dignity, hope and respect as the guiding principles for the relationship with our nation’s first people.”

Aborigines lived mostly as hunter-gatherers for tens of thousands of years before British colonial settlers landed at what is now Sydney in 1788.

Today, there are about 450,000 Aborigines in Australia’s population of 21 million. They are the country’s poorest group, with the highest rates of jailing, unemployment and illiteracy. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than that of other Australians. From 1910 until the 1970s, an estimated 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were dying out. A government inquiry found in 1997 that most were deeply scarred by the experience.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Monkeypox can spread by touching objects that have been contaminated by the disease's fluids or lesions as well as direct physical contact with the lesions.

    Monkeypox virus can stay on computer mouse, coffee machine for days: CDC study

    A new study on monkeypox by the US disease control body CDC now suggests that the virus can linger on many common household objects for several days despite regular disinfecting. For this study, a home shared by two monkeypox patients was taken up. Researchers found the virus in 70 per cent of high-contact areas 20 days after their symptoms began. These included couches, blankets, a coffee machine, computer mouse and the light switch.

  • The path of flight ET343 over Addis Ababa, as recorded by Flightradar24. When the plane overflew the runway, the autopilot disconnected, triggering an alarm, which finally woke the pilots, who then turned the plane around. (Courtesy: flightradar24)

    Ethiopian Airlines pilots fall asleep on flight, miss landing

    New Delhi: Pilots of an aircraft of Ethiopian Airlines fell asleep mid-air and missed landing at Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, commercial aviation news website Aviation Herald reported late on Thursday. The pilots were later suspended pending an investigation, according to news agency Bloomberg. The incident reportedly took place on Monday when the aircraft was flying from Sudan's Khartoum and was supposed to land at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

  • Michael Gove in a file photo. (Reuters)

    Ex-UK minister Michael Gove backs Rishi Sunak for next PM

    Former British cabinet minister Michael Gove on Friday endorsed Rishi Sunak for prime minister and announced an end of his frontline political career, he said in an op-ed in The Times. Gove wrote in the op-ed that he thinks Liz Truss' campaign for 10 Downing Street "has been a holiday from reality." Sunak has the right arguments as they come from his experience of being the chancellor during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gove added.

  • FILE - Armed al-Shabab fighters ride on pickup trucks as they prepare to travel into the city, just outside the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, Dec. 8, 2008.. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)

    Al-Shabaab attacks hotel in Somalia's Mogadishu, casualties reported

    Al-Shabaab fighters attacked a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu in a hail of gunfire and explosions on Friday, with casualties reported, security sources and witnesses said. The assault on the Hayat Hotel triggered a fierce gunfight between security forces and gunmen from the jihadist group who are still holed up inside the building, security official Abdukadir Hassan told AFP.

  • Sweden shopping centre shooting: Two injured, one arrested. (Getty Images)

    Sweden shopping centre shooting: Two injured, one arrested

    Swedish police said on Friday two people were injured in a shooting at the Emporia shopping centre in the southern city of Malmo and one suspect has been arrested. Read: Shooting selection policy set for a tweak again The police are on the scene questioning witnesses and going through material from surveillance cameras. Earlier, police said they had cordoned off the area and asked the public to avoid going to the shopping centre.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now