Wednesday, 13 February 2008

closing the gap

I'd planned a different post for this morning. A post about technology, about simplicity and design excellence. A post about great ideas and the flawed realities. A post about my inner geek.

But I've just been watching parliament on TV and somehow it isn't so important right now.

I've been watching Kevin say sorry (I'm sure within minutes of posting You Tube will be able to show you all about it).

I'm just a regular white girl, with only the most passing of contact with the aboriginal communities of my country. But I feel the pain of even imagining having my babies taken from me, of being taken from my mother, of watching my siblings ripped from the family hearth.

Like many other descendants of colonists and migrants, I have long wished to hear our government say sorry. I've signed petitions and worn T-shirts. Sent letters to parliamentarians. I've felt helpless to be able to do anything real about the great divides.

Indigenous affairs is a really really complex area. As a policy analyst I have some inkling of just how hard it is, and as a citizen I find it entirely overwhelming. Fear of getting it wrong, of doing the wrong thing, of insulting and being ignorant is a powerful disincentive to taking action that might make a difference.

But the Stolen Generation cuts across this for me. No matter the intent. The images of forced separation I have in my mind, the stories only recently come to light, fill me with such deep deep sorrow. How can we not say sorry? How can we not see and recognise the hurt felt by those who have suffered what is surely every child's, every parent's worst nightmare.

So I sat watching parliament at 9 o'clock this morning and I cried, cried like a little girl scared of being taken from her mother. And I wanted to say soemthing about that. I am sure my apology means nothing to any of those who have experienced the kind of loss I can only begin to imagine. And there are many grounds for criticising Kevin and Brendan, they are human and flawed and have differing points of view.

But I have hope for the first time in a long time that this might be the beginning of something. That in recognising what has happened, in speaking out loud about the hurts that have been born in private we may begin the real work of the present and future.

11 comments:

Annagrace said...

I remember my father, who was from Sydney (I'm American) telling me about this when I was little...and I just recently read that there were finally real plans for some sort of apology or statement from the government. It's an incredible tragedy. I can't imagine being cold enough, hard enough, to take a baby/child from its mother. My own country has a similarly violent history with its native peoples and I sometimes wonder at the fact that humanity has managed to survive itself at all...

kate said...

Hear hear.

I'm waiting with baited breath for the implementation of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home and Little Children Are Sacred reports.

And I cried too.

jamsandwich said...

Well said sooz. At last we can start to move forward in a positive direction. I emigrated here in 1990 yet as a white fella definately feel responsible for what past governments did to our indigenous people. This Kevin Rudd bloke seems to be going okay so far. And of course I cried and cried my poor two year old was very concerned!

Violet & Rose said...

As a mother whose heart bleeds for these mothers and their children, watching elderly Aboriginal women sobbing into their tissues and grown men wiping tears from their eyes. All in our parliament. I feel like today is a new day ...

sueeeus said...

OMG! I just tried posting a comment on Bec's blog about a dream I had last night in which my babies were taken from me... ...and I was too afraid to even think about what it meant and why I dreamt it, but now I've read your post and maybe it was some sort of cosmic empathy for that of which you speak.

...so I'm crying for them now...

Thanks for sharing this.

spinningayarn said...

I heard on the radio of the first aboriginal involvement of the opening of parliment for the new year yesterday. It suprised me as much as trying to imagine important new zealand events without the spiritual dimension maori culture brings. An apology is the first step along a hard road of trying to make it better.

Kate said...

Wasn't it a great day to finally see an apology? I have talked to many people this has affected and read about it, but I could still never understand how it could affect someone and their families.

Di said...

hear, hear. (or is it "here, here"?)

Jodie said...

Oh sooz, I cried too - at school in front of all the grade 2's and 5's and they were a bit confused but they understood those stories and the sadness. Thanks for putting it so well.

Karen said...

here here, , yes I cried too. And started crying again on reading your post, so well expressed.

Lets hope for brighter days ahead after this long over due appology

fiveandtwo said...

I grew up in boondocks NT. Mainstream school was stupid for aboriginal kids (1970's - things have improved). Then I went to a North Qld boarding school. Even at twelve years old I could see that "uprooting" the aboriginal girls from their community was so, so damaging. Sure, perhaps they had the most "potential" from a whitey point of view. Most of us got a weekly letter from home. Of course these girls didn't. They cried when we read our letters. No comfort from us replaced their desperate need to be with community. No letters because their parents didn't write english.
I still think of those girls sometimes.
Sending them to a European boarding school, even an unsophisticated 12 yo could see the insanity in that.