"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry."
February 14, 2008: As Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved to "to remove a great stain from the nation's soul" yesterday, many Australians are disappointed over the motion to say Sorry to the Stolen Generations...
According to some media outlets, many Australians did not welcome Kevin Rudd's apology yesterday. Following the Prime Minister's landmark apolgy speech, talkback switchboards and internet servers went crazy, and thousands rang or logged on to register their disagreement at the new direction.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that misinformed Sydney talkback callers described the morning's events as "political correctness gone mad" and asked why it was an apology for "them and not us". In a display of rage and ignorance, one caller declared: "I'm disgusted... he [Rudd] makes out that we've done nothing but destroy this country." a caller to Alan Jones said.
"Is he ashamed that we defended this nation against Japan? Will he say 'sorry' to the people who died defending this nation in the wars? What about them?"
Sydney shock-jock Alan Jones (also known as the parrot) pushed the view of Keith Windschuttle, who denies the validity of the "Stolen Generations". "Yes, there was a piece of nonsense and obnoxious policy in Western Australia in 1936. But over 99 per cent of them were untouched by this political stupidity," Jones said. "...Many of the children who were taken were welfare cases ...they were malnourished and mistreated."
In one online poll 36 per cent were in favour of the apology and 64 per cent against, while another had the number at 44 in favour to 56 opposed. "It shows that the average Australian in the street is not in favour of what our leaders are doing," the leader of the racist Australia First Party, Dr Jim Saleam, said.
"We were not responsible for these policies - we weren't even there. I think most people see that simple logic."
In Canberra, outspoken right-wing politician Wilson (Ironbar) Tuckey, marched out of parliament before the apology, saying it would do little for Aborigines. "Tomorrow, there'll be no petrol sniffing, tomorrow, little girls can sleep in their beds without any concern - it's all fixed, the Rudd spin will fix it all," Tuckey quipped.
Tuckey recitied louder than anyone the Lord's Prayer as Prime Minister Rudd rose to speak. "I thought there was a better chance for the Aboriginal people if I said a prayer on their behalf and relied on the efforts of a higher being because I have no confidence whatsoever that Kevin Rudd is going to do anything for them," Mr Tuckey said today. Other Liberals rustled paper in dissent and read throughout Rudd's speech - ex-Treasurer Peter Costello tapped on a laptop computer.
West Australian politician Don Randall also refused the apology, and Victorian Sophie Mirabella, was also missing. Mirabella later released a statement saying it is better for Indigenous children to be raised away from their families. She also said there is no evidence the Stolen Generations ever happened in Victoria.
Former Northern Territory chief minister and Liberal Party president Shane Stone said: "I am not big on being welcomed to someone's country or parliaments being opened by a smoking ceremony or dancing blackfellas. I have on occasion been known to be outspoken on indigenous affairs and individuals, having once referred to Galarrwuy Yunupingu as 'just another whingeing, whining, carping black'..." In the Australian he wrote: "Our indigenous people are among the most disadvantaged Australians, beset with monumental health, education, housing and employment problems. Whose fault is it? Does that really matter?"
Yet Stone, in the spirit of the occasion also declared that: "I am sorry for what has happened in the past to our indigenous people and for what continues to this day. I hope that we will all accept responsibility for our own actions and failings and as one people work together to make this country a better place for all Australians. .."
In the outback town of Bourke NSW, many white Australians also opposed apology. "I don't think we should be apologising because it wasn't our generation that stole them," one woman said. "I don't think there's a country in the world that has not been settled under similar circumstances," another woman said.
Meanwhile, opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott declared ex-PM John Howard did more for indigenous people than any other prime minister. But Howard was the only living former prime minister absent from yesterday's parliamentary apology to Australia's indigenous peoples. He refused to say sorry to the stolen generations while in office between 1996 and 2007.
Representatives of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra say the apology will mean little if the Government fails to recognise Aboriginal sovereignty. Tent Embassy spokeswoman Isabelle Coe says while the apology is a start, the next step is signing a treaty recognising Aboriginal sovereignty.
Tom Calma, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, said the day was not about guilt but about belonging, not just for the stolen generations but for all Australians. "Let the healing of the nation begin."
The Daily Telegraph