The road to reconciliation has been long and it has been tortuous but with the imminent apology to be offered by the current Australian government to our indigenous brothers and sisters is long overdue, yet it will shorten the road to full reconciliation. My only hope is that the apology includes the word successive governments have opposed for so long, SORRY!
As a nation we must be sorry for the policies of forced assimilation, as a nation we must be sorry for the policies that led to forced removal of children from their families, as a nation we must be sorry that since that light came on an our indigenous brothers and sisters gained their rights as citizens in 1967 that they have never really been afforded the same access as others. Simply, we just must be sorry.
The issue has never really been one of compensation for past wrongs. You can never really compensate for the losses endured. However, as a nation we must acknowledge that we got it wrong. Perhaps the principles of what occurred were blurred by a desire to do good. There are legitimate arguments that the underpinnings of the initial policy was to make positive changes but the systematic implementation of the policy resulted in the degradation and in many cases destruction of a vibrant aboriginal culture. We must, as a nation, be ashamed that many of the indigenous languages that so widely populated our nation have disappeared and are never to be whispered again.
A poll conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald suggest that a slim majority are for an apology but there is no question in my mind that one is necessary. Once sorry is said then we can move on to recognising our rich indigenous culture through a constitutional amendment to the preamble. Amending the Constitution is going to be far more difficult proposition than saying sorry. Constitutional amendments in Australia are notorious for failing to gain sufficient support from the community to pass. The above poll suggests that when push comes to shove that amending the Constitution is not going to be an easy ask.
The apology is scheduled to be made on 13 February 2008 with the opening of Parliament with a brief ceremony of welcome to be held by the Ngunnawal people.
It is important to recognize past wrongs because without this acknowledgement there can be no justice, without justice there can be no closure, and without closure there can be no 'true' reconciliation.