Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Syd says sorry

Syd Walker council candidate for the Tablelands Regional Council welcomes the national apology and calls for a local reconciliation process.

As a candidate for election to the Tablelands Regional Council in Division 8, which includes Kuranda and other places with large indigenous populations, I welcome today's apology to Aboriginal people from the Prime Minister on behalf of the nation.

Acknowledgement of past injustices is long overdue. Kevin Rudd's well-stated apology provides a basis for reconciliation between the first peoples of Australia and those, like myself, whose roots in this land are much less deep.

I call for a reconciliation process at local level this area - a special part of Australia where a high proportion of the community is Aboriginal.

The Prime Minister’s national statement referred to the longevity of Australian Aboriginal culture. It is almost certainly the most ancient continuous culture on earth.

That remarkable cultural continuity, in Far North Queensland, was shattered when invading colonists seized most of the land in the last few decades of the 19th century. Resistance was crushed by force. There were massacres within our own part of FNQ. That is documented historical fact.

These were shameful episodes in British and Australian history. Apart from the brutality and suffering, it was a disaster of cultural loss akin to the burning of huge libraries and the sacking of great cities. Vast stores of indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge, gained over many hundreds of generations, were obliterated in a few years. All humanity now bears that loss.

Within another generation, most of the Aboriginal people in this area were rounded up and forced to live in settlements such as Mona Mona, where they were forbidden to speak their own languages or practice their own culture.

A sincere apology is merited to the Aboriginal people of this area. The roots of current Aboriginal disadvantage lie in this tragic history. Our generation needs to find the wisdom to put this past behind us, acknowledging yet moving beyond it.

At local level, the community as a whole can put real substance into the reconciliation process. One important step would be offering active assistance to the Aboriginal community so it can rebuild Mona Mona as a prosperous, Aboriginal-owned, self-managed settlement.

A rebuilt and thriving Mona Mona is clearly the wish of our local Aboriginal community. I support this goal and pledge continuing support.
The national foundations are now in place for meaningful reconciliation in this area.

I hope we are wise enough to take advantage of this opportunity to create a better future together.

5 comments:

bungyone said...

Hey Sid. Stop bleating about the aboriginals and thank your lucky stars my relatives fought off the Japanese otherwise your head would be really up your arse. Those Samari swords arer sharp mate. The blacks in Australlia can feel lucky it was the Poms who came and not the Indonesians who didn't realize Australia was rotten with minerals and oil. The lump of Freehold Land I occupy was not owned by any black man. If it was he would have been sitting on it like Edie Mabo was sitting on his land. Get real Sid and move on, its the future we need you for, not the past.

Paul - Edmonton said...

I have to say that the apology to the stolen generation is a bit of a joke. My mother grew up in an area where children were taken from their families. If these children wherent taken from their families, they would have died from malnutrition or abuse. These children where also put into families where they were fed, clothed and educated. All the children from that area have all grown up and have now got jobs and a future for their own families that if they where not put into a foster home, they would not have had. Admittedly, there where cases where the child was just as abused in the white family as with the aboriginal family, but the same thing happened to white children as well. My question with all this is, "Have the flood gates for litigation now been opened, or, are we all going to move on??" Hopefully, we will all move on. I am not saying that what the government at the time did was the right thing, but, at the time, it appeared to be the right thing.
If the litigation is going to start, I think that the white people of Australia deserve some appologies as well. I know I do from my own experiences.
If the litigations starts, I want an appology from the Aboriginal kids who broke into my car in Mackay, ransacked it, then set it on fire. All for $20 worth of change in the centre console.
I want an apology for my sister from the 3 Aboriginal girls who beat her up so badly, she had to spend three weeks in hospital. Once again, for $20. I am sure that most white and black Australians can come up with things that have happened to them that they should be appologised too.
I would like to point out, I am not racist. Some very good, and much trusted freinds of mine are Aboriginal. I would trust them with my own children. Not many people have that trust.
It just annoys me that such a small percentage of the population can hold the entire country to ransom. Not only the Aboriginals, but nearly all minority groups in Australia have more control then the entire coultry, whether they are Lebonise, Gay, Asian, Muslim etc. I thought we where one country.

Syd Walker said...

bungyone and paul

Thanks for your comments. I believe this discussion is part of what we need to have to put the worst of the past behind us.

I don't really agree, Paul, that Aboriginal people "can hold the entire country to ransom". I don't think that's ever happened.

I haven't read the Bringing the Home report, but I do know a little about what took place in this part of the world, mainly through the work of local historian Tim Bottoms.

I set out, in my earlier statement, the parts of that story which I felt most merit an apology.

In FNQ, about 150 years ago, two cultures came into contact with highly asymmetrical power relations. European colonists thought that they were 'civilized' and the Aborigines were mere 'savages'. But neither of these propositions really stands up to scrutiny. The British invaders destroyed a very complex network of ancient cultures without first understanding them.

I mentioned the 'loss' that we all bear from this history. The obliteration of ethnobotanical knowledge is an obvious example. It's my understanding that many (most?) plant-based drugs were first identified as useful by native peoples. Pharmaceutical companies don't randomly survey rainforest flora - it's too vast and diverse. They follow the advice of indigenous people. If colonists kill the culture and wipe out the native languages, knowledge with great economic potential can be lost forever.

Finally, bungyone expresses the view that the Aboriginal folk were lucky that it was the British, not others, who invaded this country.

I used to hold a similar view. I am Anglo-Australian. At school I learned that Britain was the summit of civilized humanity - and that other countries should be rather glad we invaded them.

I don't believe that any more.

If one mark of a civilized country is decent, humane, non-violent behaviour to others, Britain has a LOT to answer for.

A review of the historical record - right through to the present day - shows that with the possible exceptions of the State of Israel and the USA - there is simply no more aggressive, invasive, arrogant or war-mongering country on the face of the earth.

That doesn't mean everything about Britain is bad. I could fill a book with the things I love about the place and its culture.

But Australia would do well to stop tagging behind the rather vicious beast of the British State and its dodgy mates.

bungyone said...

Well Syd, I don't need a history lesson from you. I had a phone call from my TI mate last year from Goulburn. He asked me if I knew a certain "stolen Generation" person who I went to school with in Cootamundra. The person was fostered into a family there and now owns a two story mansion in Goulburn. Her profession, Barrister. But a question Syd, did you support Australia’s invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq?

Syd Walker said...

That's easy to answer, bungyone.

Did I support the invasion of Iraq? No I didn't. I said so at the time. The millions like me around the world who opposed the invasion, IMO, have susequently been proven right - perhaps even more decisively than we imagined at the time.

Another ancient civilization fecklessly looted by arrogant western powers...