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Re: Apology: ALP, Coalition Democrats oppose compo

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  • Peter Boyle
    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
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 13, 2008
      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.

      Peter Boyle
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