Re: Apology: ALP, Coalition Democrats oppose compo
- Some notes on the discussion so far.
February 13 was an historic moment in Australian politics. The federal
Parliament's apology for the Stolen Generations had a certain value
independent of what the Rudd Labor government intends to do or not to
do to address the real oppression if Indigenous Australians.
Because the official denial of Australia's horrendously racist modern
history went on so long (indeed became extremely strident as part of
the reactionary reversals by conservative governments over the last
couple of decades) alone made this moment very significant.
Then there is the psychological value. One of the worst aspects of
systematic oppression is the building into the the consciousness of
the oppressed that deep-seated sense of inferiority. Racism does this
very well, and even the post-70s reforms in wealthy imperialist
countries like Australia, many Indigenous Australians are forced to
feel grossly inferior. Many walk through the streets of modern
Australia with their eyes looking out for the hidden barriers and
lines that marks a sort of apartheid that lives on informally. Life
becomes a struggle against the poisonous self-doubt of inferiority. So
a formal apology, especially when delivered in the clear way that PM
Kevin Rudd delivered it, has a great value to Indigenous Australians.
Not one of the Aboriginal people I spoke to outside the Parliament in
Canberra on the eve of the apology dismissed it was a waste of time of
meaningless. Indeed quite the opposite, the apology was charged with
Yet at the same time, not one thought that an apology was enough.
Natasha, a young Indigenous woman from Perth, a city still drenched in
racism and hatred for Aborigines, put it succinctly: "It is only the
start of a much bigger process that needs to happen."
Fred, a Koori man who had come up from Sydney, one of the Stolen
Generations (and still painfully battling its consequences) was choked
with emotion. This was a longtime coming, he said, but he had mixed
feelings. If people like Fred are going to be forced to fight through
the courts for any compensation, then what justice is there?
Aboriginal lawyer and veteran activist Michael Mansell summed up the
contradiction. Other people in Australia expect compensation as a
right for lesser wrongs so why not the victims of systematic racism?
The Rudd Labor government will be recorded in history as having taken
an historic step for justice for Indigenous Australians but it does
not deserve unconditional praise. The Labor politicians joined with
the Liberal-National opposition to vote down a Greens motion calling
for compensation for the Stolen Generations that same Wednesday. And
built into Rudd's mostly fine apology speech
<http://www.alp.org.au/media/0208/spepm130.php> were two Blairite
words pregnant with reactionary meaning "mutual obligation".
Then there is Howard government-initiated and Labor supported
military-style intervention into Northern Territory remote Aboriginal
communities, supposedly to save the children of those communities from
sexual abuse and other depravities. The real record so far has shown
it up to be a racist, cynical and largely ineffective adventure which
has returned some aspects of the "protectionist" regime that spawned
the Stolen Generations through 70% of the 20th century. Rudd Labor
wants it to continue, with modifications which we are yet to see spelt
out. The communities affected were in Canberra to say they wanted the
intervention terminated now.
Should the left give Rudd Labor a chance to show that it will do good
beyond the apology? The answer of the protestors in Canberra on
February 12 was a resounding "no". They knew we only got this far
because of struggle, struggle that put the pressure on Rudd Labor to
make the long-overdue apology and they know that only by maintaining
that pressure do we have any chance of preventing this moment from
becoming what a local cartoonist in the Sydney Morning Herald today
summed up with the caption: "And now...moving right along."
There was also the awareness that the expectations and confidence
raised by this victory could help us in the struggles still ahead.
See Allan Moir's cartoon here:
Cartoonist Moir was lampooning but the Murdoch-owned Sydney tabloid,
the Daily Telegraph, did not have satire in mind with its crude cover
headline: "Now look to the future"
As Moir said, moving right along... they hope. Our duty is to help
dash that hope.