What does reconciliation look like?
Andrew L. Urban
Reconciliation. The word is used almost automatically, especially in the context of the arguments about the Voice referendum. It sounds so …. positive, peaceful, in contrast to the stormy seas in which it floats like a life jacket. But what is the nature of it? How would it manifest? How do we recognise it has been achieved?
I have a suggestion.
Modern Australia has come to terms with the racial sins of its colonial past in many, many ways. We are half way there, and have been for some years. The noisy minority of activists (black and white alike) are standing in the way of completion. It’s as if they can’t or won’t recognise the evidence. Here is a snapshot reminder.
In 1992, the High Court ruled in the historic Mabo decision, recognising native title in Australia; terra nullius was annulled.
On August 26, 1999 that then Prime Minister John Howard moved a Motion of Reconciliation, including an expression of ‘deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.’ ‘National sorry day’ was first held a year earlier, on May 26. That was 25 years ago.
Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a motion of Apology to the Australian ‘Stolen Generation’ on February 13, 2008.
There are no corners of society, government, the law or institutions where Aborigines are discriminated AGAINST. There is no greater social taboo than to be perceived as insensitive to Aboriginal culture, history and needs. Such has been the depth and tangible effect of the private and public acts of recognition – and the loud pronouncements of ‘sorry’.
White Australia has long been sorry, in every possible way, for the then colony’s wrongs, even for wrongs that may not have seemed so wrong at the time, even those wrongs that were committed with best intentions. In hindsight, we are all very sorry and have said so publicly, sincerely. Almost daily, it would seem. Australia WANTS to be reconciled.
Where was the day that marked that vital, redemptive response to ‘sorry’, the sign that the apology (and its echoes) was heard and accepted, that those wrongs, while never forgotten, would now be laid to rest and ‘forgiven’? And where is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individual or group who could articulate it on behalf of all indigenous people? Indeed, would they all consent to it? With one Voice? The failure to close this wound is the ever-bleeding injury that continues to cause all Australians pain. There can be no healing until this is addressed and the wound properly dressed. But it is now up to those to whom the apology was addressed.
To use a colonial metaphor, the flogging doesn’t end until the flogger is satisfied and the crime is seen as punished. Just as a prison sentence, once served, settles the debt with society. Or as a penalty, once paid, acquits the offence, without erasing it.
But the agitation and the activism and the victimhood has continued, enabled by a hapless political class, encouraged by an eager Aborigine industry and hangers on who see not only political mileage in the ‘struggle’ but lots of money. Perhaps ‘sorry day’ should be rechristened ‘sorry for self day’, to properly describe how the manipulators of white guilt have twisted the role of helping the Aborigine cause into helping their own.
Otherwise, how to explain the continued existence of those remote communities that are engulfed in alcohol, drugs, violence and lawlessness, where children are collateral damage every day. Threatened with the dreaded ‘racist’ epithet, we are not even able to safeguard these children. When I say ‘we’, I mean the Australian community, the black and the white and the brown, the bureaucrat and the politician, the citizen and the Aboriginal community spokesman. We are rendered helpless in the face of this human disaster by the scare tactics of self appointed, misguided moral guardians.
When people say ‘sorry’ to one another, it is an incomplete act, until it is answered by ‘forgiven’. Until that happens, Australia is cursed to a grim Groundhog Day of guilt and remorse, without forgiveness, without remedy or redemption, always pressed for yet more compensation, yet more sorry fodder – and more political power, as amplified by the Voice. I suggest that reconciliation has been on offer for years: it’s not a voice that will deliver reconciliation, but a handshake.
One hand is already extended …
Dear Andrew. As you know , I’m already disillusioned with this country. We put an innocent Cardinal in jail , we watched for 11 years as a woman called Lindy tried to clear her name. Did anyone give them a public apology ? You know my story ! Did anyone stand up for me ? Yes up to a point . Then ,
more concerned about the ramifications of sticking up for someone accused, that person could not stay the course . It takes courage to say enough , I’m going to tell it how it is. ! Do we discriminate against Japanese kids for the sins of their grandfathers . Of course not ! Extend the hand to all you know who have been wronged by all means , because as humans we are sorry , when we hear of an injustice , good people feel like that. In ALL circumstances. The VOICE will not be a reasonable and articulated attempt to communicate , it will be a screaming match. As I’ve said , my parents were mistreated as migrants in the 1950’s . I saw it and I’ll never forget it . My friendship too is my extended hand , and I will listen to any aboriginal who affords me the same courtesy . Going over past pains constantly does not allow you to rebuild. I should know shouldn’t I Andrew ? If being an Australian requires me to be less than any other Australian , I no longer want to be one. Regards pv