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SORRY - AT LAST by Melinda Kerr

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On Wednesday 13 February 2008, the Federal Australian government will begin the process of saying ‘sorry’ to our indigenous population.
Primarily for the forced removal of aboriginal children from their parents. These children were then put in orphanages or white foster families.
The individuals involved have come to be known as the ‘stolen generation.’
This Government is the first one to agree to say ‘sorry’ for the events of the past which have permanently scarred relations between indigenous and european/celtic Australians.
It is considered by many to be vital to the healing process for all Australians.
I for one think it’s great.

G’day all, my name is Melinda but my mates call me Mel, so feel free. I live by the beach in Elwood, Victoria, Australia. I contribute to a few charities as a Photojournalist, namely HEAL Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Any of my Africa stuff’s profits go to them. So far the sales have bought 7 operations and heaps more so thanks for everyone’s support. I also take a mean beach shot (well try to).

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  • Steven  Lippis
    Steven Lippisalmost 7 years ago

    I’m torn on this issue.
    Saying sorry is an admission of guilt. I am certainly not guilty of it. And when does my white mother (and the many others) get her ‘sorry’ for the daughter she was forced to give up?

    That said, if saying sorry is what it’s going to take for everyone to move on, then I’m all for it. The past has been dwelt on too much, we need to move forward, together as one nation and one people.

  • Oops I replied but forgot to press the reply button…sorry…;)

    – Melinda Kerr

  • Kathleen Cameron
    Kathleen Cameronalmost 7 years ago

    saying sorry is not necessarily an admission of guilt steve, there are two meanings for the word sorry… one in apology, one to say in empathy, "i’m sorry that happened’ and I doubt that any australian knows enough history to discount any family involvement ever… I just found a huge chunk of my family tree which is highly dubious in the history of this country…

    my best friend is a tireless worker for her aboriginal community, I have worked in government departments dealing in indigenous affairs and I can say this, even in a working environment the white people didn’t really talk to the black people and vice versa, it was a tension that remained unsaid and cold…

    the difference between what happened to your mother and the stolen generation (and please don’t let me upset you) is that the indigenous people were ethnically cleansed of their race and culture… they were encouraged to believe they were something they were not… and there was more rape in those communities than you can imagine…

    I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to receive indigenous cultural awareness training and I was crying my eyes out at the end of it… i can’t tell you how angry it makes me when I hear certain opinions cause the simple fact is that unless you have studied history or been exposed to the truth and cultural awareness in that manner, you can’t understand the barbarity of it… it was more than just taking babies it was ethnic cleansing…

    we in australia are appalled by these behaviours in other countries, we say that human rights should be upheld there… but this was our grandparents generation… not very long ago, and their parents were the pioneers of this land… how did they take control, with guns and violence and misinformation and repression of the traditional owners… it makes me sick…

    god… thanks melinda… I’ve been needing to get that all out all week…

    I was listening to talk back on the topic on the radio the other night and was screaming at the top of my voice… people need to seek education on this topic or they look quite evil…

    nevertheless… ho hum…

    sorry to my indigenous kin, I hope I can move forward with you as a sister of australia…

  • Oops I replied but forgot to press the reply button…

    – Melinda Kerr

  • Melinda Kerr
    Melinda Kerralmost 7 years ago

    Hey Steve and Kathleen – great to get your feedback. From my point of view it’s the empathetic sorry I support. I too had nothing to do with the actions of the past and as such a sorry for my actions version would be meaningless. But I am certainly sorry for the pain and continued anguish it has caused. So I guess that’s where I’m coming from. But all opinions welcomed :)

  • botanicali
    botanicalialmost 7 years ago

    Hey Melinda, good on you. For me I believe I’ve benefited indirectly from the injustices, so for me it’s both an empathic sorry and a guilt sorry. I think an apology of either sort is sorely needed and appreciate kathleen’s views – the more I read, hear and learn, the more I understand this ongoing pain that’s an ugly underbelly of our lovely country. I’m glad Rudd and the wider government has the guts, quite frankly, to even tackle the healing process.

    I try to imagine what it might be like for white Australians if another country invaded and killed us and wouldn’t let us speak English, or move about as we wished. If they insisted we lived in specific locations and in a way that went against our deepest beliefs and wishes. If they insisted that we assimilate and then took away any ‘half-caste’ kids of ours, whether they were a result of rape or love… If they believed that enough of us had died already and that our ‘race’ would soon be gone and good riddance to us. Then judged us for our despair and dysfunctional behaviour. Good lord.

  • Valid comments Alison.

    – Melinda Kerr

  • Steven  Lippis
    Steven Lippisalmost 7 years ago

    I think it’s terrible that it happened, no doubt. I only wish a simple word would make everything better.
    It’s such a complicated issue. Ideally I don’t believe people should receive extra treatment based on their skin colour. In reality they need it because the people who should be giving them service, be it health, education or housing won’t help them.
    But this is a catch 22. You give special treatment and people will become bitter about it, perpetuating racism and the issues it causes. There’s really no easy answer.

    Unfortunately humans have done terrible things to other humans throughout the centuries, and will probably continue to do so.
    There’s only one thing to do. Pick yourself up and get on with making the most of life. That isn’t to trivialise the matter, but dwelling on it will do nothing, and I hope ‘sorry’ means Australia as a whole can move forward for the benefit of all.

  • Steve Axford
    Steve Axfordalmost 7 years ago

    I agree Alison. We have benefited from the crimes and “mistakes”, of our parents and grandparents, so we should feel some guilt. If you go into aboriginal communitees you can see the disfunction that we have caused. The alcoholism and child abuse doesn’t happen (as much) in our society because we have our self esteem. What a shattering impact it must have been to a community to have their children forcibly removed and brought up with no heritage, not even a white one because we never accepted them as our own. We then cast them adrift with nothing. To think that I didn’t do this, it was only my parents or grandparents is just continuing the cruelty. I do think that an apology is an inportant step and it is an acknowledgment of some guilt. I think it is very self serving to just say “I’m sorry for your situation, but it’s not my fault”. From the aboriginee side that would seem to be saying that we’ve benefited from all that has gone before between our races, but we’r dammed if we’re going to give anything back. The biggest thing they need is their self respect and a real apology will be a step in that direction. Some half hearted thing just isn’t good enough.

  • Greg Halliday
    Greg Hallidayalmost 7 years ago

    Gee, looks like a lot of bubblers haven’t traveled much or read a history book…

    Is it good to go though life feeling sorry for yourself and blaming others for your current position? I had a pretty rough start to my life, but after just forty years I’ve rectified that quite well.

    History is history, modern day Australians have done an awful lot to try to achieve equality and a balance, but it will take commitment from both sides, and not flowery words, to achieve change.

    I don’t believe anyone should be limited or restricted from achieving their goals, but heck, life is full of limiting factors. The only thing that can stop you overcoming those limiting factors is you and your choices. Aboriginal groups have been asking for this step in their progression to acceptance and happiness, lets hope they can maximise the benefits and achieve some real progress on the back of this symbol.

  • Depends on how you look at it Greg. I’ve had some tough things happen in my life too, but this issue has nothing to do with what’s happened to me, or any of us in this thread. It has to do with what has happened to them. The thing is we have an opportunity to do something which is widely regarded by the victims of this action as an act which will help. Opportunity is knocking for us to assist our fellow human beings. Selflessly. I think that’s fantastic.

    – Melinda Kerr

  • Steve Axford
    Steve Axfordalmost 7 years ago

    Will you tell us about your hard life Greg? And how you have travelled to aboriginal communities and the history books you have read?

  • ApeArt
    ApeArtalmost 7 years ago

    well done

  • Greg Halliday
    Greg Hallidayalmost 7 years ago

    Quite Ironically Steve, My dad built houses for the communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria, I actually spent 5 years of my life living the aboriginals lifestyle and schooling, right down to eating “bush tucker” and nearly spearing the regional priest, I think it was an accident ;-). I don’t intend publicly expose details of my life, but like many Australians, I live the life of a low income family who never had holidays away from home and had to suffer public schooling with my fellow aboriginal friends. I served in the military with aboriginal oppo’s and even had an aboriginal as a father in law at one stage. I have lived and worked with many very well adjusted and successful full blood aboriginals.

    All I’m saying is that where you are in life now is not where you have to be a year from now, and nothing can prevent you changing your circumstances except yourself. Words are not the answer and white man can never fix the problems of the aboriginal community. As for the history books, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any piece of land on the planet that has had the same inhabitants for the 200,000 odd years since humanoids started claiming ownership. Time is not going to go backwards and 40,000 years from now there may not even be any recognisable races left, but the land will still be here, so is it really worth stressing over? (Lets hope there is only one race so we loose that excuse for failure and oppression) Australia has done ok, the era has passed and laws have been fixed and enforced, and we have worked hard to be world leaders in human rights and equality, I suspect that on the 14th of Feb, there will be no fewer problems in the communities. After all, this apology is only about the stolen generation, one small aspect of the big issue and an area where the state was trying to do the right thing, not slaughter but assimilate the races. Maybe not the right idea, but humans are stupid buggers really aren’t we, I stuffed up three times today and I’m bloody brilliant!!

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