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A sorry business

February 4th, 2008

Brendan Nelson’s career as Leader of the Opposition looks to be over before he has even faced the Rudd government in Parliament, thanks to his equivocation over the issue of an apology to the Stolen Generation. If Nelson was fair dinkum about supporting an apology, given the appropriate words, he could have made a positive virtue of it, saying something like “This apology needs to come from the Parliament, not just the government. I’m willing to work with Mr Rudd in preparing a statement that will have unanimous support”.

As it is, he will end up being forced through every possible position from outright opposition to conditional support to the final stage when he’ll be forced to deal with the hardline rejectionists in his own ranks.

A unanimous vote of Parliament is essential here. If Nelson fails to take firm action (expulsion and withdrawal of endorsement) against any Liberal who crosses the floor, his failure as a leader will be complete.

Nelson’s problem is that denouncing the Stolen Generation is a cause celebre for the hardliners who gave him for the job and for the culture war dinosaurs (Quadrant, the Bennelong Group and so on) who cheered them on for years. In this sector of their parallel universe, the treatment of Aboriginal Australians was a successful exercise in Christian philanthropy until leftist do-gooders took over in the 1960s. They won’t let Nelson, who is basically a decent person, do the right thing, at least not without a fight.

It’s a pity. Most people are ready to move beyond ideological pointscoring and embrace any policy option that will actually deliver improved living standards and reconciliation. If we are going to move forward, we need to acknowledge how badly our country has failed in the past, and an apology is an essential element of this process.

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  1. February 4th, 2008 at 08:44 | #1

    Very well said, John.

    Though the point about taking firm action is perhaps moot because the Liberal Party claims that it gives its members the right to cross the floor without fear or favour. You might recall a number voted for Hawke’s motion (the exact terms of which I forget) in 88 which effectively condemned Howard’s anti-Asian sentiments. Including Phillip Ruddock. In general it might be a good thing if he loosened the “party line is the leader’s line” thing that ended up doing Howard so much damage. Though in particular, it wouldn’t be, not least because his party is actually split so many ways making his leadership (correctly, I think) look so weak.

  2. Hermit
    February 4th, 2008 at 08:53 | #2

    Ooh dear. Maybe I only move in dinosaur circles but I think Dr N may have accurately assessed a large body of public opinion. I say smart move.

  3. February 4th, 2008 at 09:31 | #3

    Even if that’s so, Hermit, I don’t think so. Nelson’s other problem is that this farce has been played out so publicly at the very time people are probably paying attention to politics again that he’s in the worst of three possible political worlds – he’s not avoiding any political fallout by making it a bipartisan gesture, he’s not getting any political traction from the diminishing crew of anti-apologists because he’s not sticking to that position, and he’s shooting himself in the put by displaying weak and inconsistent leadership for all to see.

  4. Paul Norton
    February 4th, 2008 at 09:41 | #4

    Opposing an apology will secure for Nelson the rock-solid support of a constituency which is too small to win elections but which, as the lead post noted, is well and truly sedimented in the organised Right of Australian politics.

  5. Patrick
    February 4th, 2008 at 09:44 | #5

    Hermit

    “Maybe I only move in dinosaur circles”

    I don’t think maybe comes into it.

    cheers

    Patrick.

  6. wizofaus
    February 4th, 2008 at 09:46 | #6

    Do we need to use phrases like “leftist do-gooders”? How many people seriously treat that as a neutral term meaning “well-meaning left-leaning individuals?”

  7. February 4th, 2008 at 09:52 | #7

    It’s amazing how often left wing positions assert that right wing positions will fail to get right wing support for not being left wing enough. It’s the sort of thinking that assumes there can be no real disagreement on fundamentals, so any actual disagreement must mean things weren’t explained clearly enough. It even presupposes that this apology would be the “right thing”, when to me it seems clear that it falls short in several respects – some from not yet being clear, and some from being entirely too clear, such as the claim to speak for me in moral matters. It is impertinent, at the very least.

    The parliamentary Liberal Party is not filled with people who will think worse of Nelson for staying clear of a Rudd initiative. The wider Liberal Party, and even some parliamentarians, would think worse of him for trying to make it a compulsory vote, even if it ever got that far, precisely because this sort of thing is a conscience issue.

    “Most people are ready to move beyond ideological pointscoring and embrace any policy option that will actually deliver improved living standards and reconciliation. If we are going to move forward, we need to acknowledge how badly our country has failed in the past, and an apology is an essential element of this process.” Since this is full of Tony Blairish alarm terms like “move beyond”, I looked closer. It sounds too much like “the time has come for all good men to rise above principle”. How would it help to do this, when it would offend people too, and the “actually deliver improved living standards and reconciliation” is not established?

  8. Spiros
    February 4th, 2008 at 09:57 | #8

    Nelson is Liberal leader because he was supported by the party’s Right. (Hence Brownyn Bishop – Bronwyn Bishop! – is a shadow minister.)

    That support is highly conditional, because he is not One of Them. Nelson isn’t one of anybody, really. He especially isn’t Malcolm Turnbull, which is why he got the job in the first place.

    Sooner or later, probably sooner, the Right will tire of him and find another puppet, or Turnbull will shift the necessary two votes and usurp him. If it’s not this issue that does Nelson in, it will be another one before long.

    Nelson probably won’t fall on this occasion because the Right appears to be split on the issue.

  9. February 4th, 2008 at 10:02 | #9

    It’s interesting that Murdoch hack Glenn Milne has quoted an email from a supposed “hardliner”, Shane Stone, saying we need to make this apology:

    Stone told me he had circulated his email to a number of prominent Australians. “Seems it has gone like wildfire around the nation,” he said. “Emails are running constantly: over 500 this morning, not a negative. All have responded positively, even my hard-nosed mates. Seems I might have started something.”

    Well, you can take credit for it if you want, Shane, but the fact is that even trogolodytes can tell which way the wind is blowing.

  10. Spiros
    February 4th, 2008 at 10:30 | #10

    It’s an interesting dynamic, this spectacle of (part of) the Right falling over themselves to say sorry.

    Presumably they haven’t all just been converted by Kevin Rudd’s towering rhetoric and powers of persuasion.

    It probably would have happened 10 years ago but for John Howard. He was against it, so they shut up for career advancement or other reasons or they managed to convince themselves that despite what they thought he was right and they were wrong.

    Howard’s departure could signal a change of mind on all sorts of issues from those who previously lined up solidly behind him (gay marriage, climate change, euthanasia, the republic …)

  11. February 4th, 2008 at 10:35 | #11

    Doesn’t Brendan Nelson remind you of another little snivelling runt who became leader of the Liberal Party? I don’t expect Nelson to last long in this incarnation, but I suspect that, like his predecessor, he will mark his territory and keep coming back like a bad smell.

    And here’s a thought: How long will it take the Australian government (and people) we can say “SORRY” to the people of Iraq?

  12. February 4th, 2008 at 10:58 | #12

    since neither nelson nor any lib has either goal or means to do anything, he can only be a spokesperson, not a leader. so he speaks for the various groups in turn, which seems fair.

    i suspect there are a number of farmers and graziers who suspect ‘sorry’ will lead to legal tussles about lease-hold land. this would provide a material basis for the ‘idealogical’ struggle over ‘sorry’.

    if rudd were genuinely concerned about aborigines, he’d turn over to them, as tribes, as much lease-hold land as possible, establishing new states with old ozzy governments. newer ozzies might complain, though.

  13. wizofaus
    February 4th, 2008 at 11:26 | #13

    Or alternatively, al, Rudd is genuinely concerned about aborigines, but doesn’t pretend to know the one easy solution that will solve all their problems.

  14. February 4th, 2008 at 11:28 | #14

    Al Loomis says Nelson “can only be a spokesperson, not a leader. so he speaks for the various groups in turn”.

    Um, Al? Nelson is SUPPOSED to be the leader of a political party. Leadership is SUPPOSED to be about providing enlightened counsel and direction. If he cannot provide leadership, perhaps we should just call him the Libs’ “Front Man”.

  15. February 4th, 2008 at 11:55 | #15

    I winced when I read about Nelson wanting to review the apology. When a large portion of the debate has revolved around a single word – “sorry” – being seen to want to quibble about the wording is a bad move.

  16. February 4th, 2008 at 12:15 | #16

    A little illustration for ya at http://www.poligoths.blospot.com

  17. February 4th, 2008 at 12:16 | #17

    or i could even spell it correctly: http://www.poligoths.blogspot.com

  18. February 4th, 2008 at 12:28 | #18

    As the comments by people like Bill Heffernan, Shane Stone, Ian Tuxworth and many other ‘Right-wing’ conservatives demonstrate, opposing an apology isn’t necessarily right-wing. Most of the apologies made by the state parliaments last decade ago were under conservative governments. Opposing an apology is just miserly, history-rewriting Howardism which would be both good policy and good politics for the federal Liberals to jettison now they have the chance, removing the politics and putting the focus on the so-called ‘practical issues’ which everyone purports to be concerned about (although personally I dispute the suggestion that an apology can’t have positive practical benefits in its own right if done properly).

    However, Nelson’s problem isn’t even that he’s refusing to indicate support for an apology – it’s that he’s so obviously all over the place on his justifications, thus appearing to be without any conviction at all on it. If he was genuinely averse to an apology (which I suspect he isn’t), he’d do a lot better maintaining Howard’s line (which as was pointed out above, many Australians – mistakenly in my view – support) and challenging Labor to actually demonstrate consistency themselves by supporting all the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, rather than just cherry-pick a single one about an apology and dismissing all the rest without consideration.

    Labor is actually maintaining 90% of Howard’s position on the Stolen generations inquiry and report, with just the one modification of putting forward an apology. A lot of the symbolism here is not for the benefit of Aboriginal people – Rudd knows that words are the easy bit, which is why they continue to follow Howard in leaving the rest in the too-hard basket. Something Brendan Nelson is making it even easier for him to do.

    And whilst I agree a unanimous vote is very desirable, I don’t agree that Nelson should seek to expul and withdraw endorsement of any Liberal who votes against an aoplogy. We need less instances of parliamentarians being forced to vote for things they are fundamentally opposed to, not more. Unanimity is desirable, but not at the price of forced and fake agreement – surely it devalues an apology if it is made by someone with a gun held to their head?

  19. observa
    February 4th, 2008 at 13:00 | #19

    Well Andrew Bolt spells out the contrary view
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/forget_the_truth_and_say_sorry/
    At the moment Rudd is no doubt in deep consultation with the lawyers as to the wording of his new symbolism, in order to minimise the calls for practical recompensation. No matter, their carefully constructed symbolics won’t dampen the enthusiasm for more sit down money in large chunks and it’s then that we’ll see how wise he’s been in disgracefully slurring my parent’s generation. They simply saw dirt, squalour and neglect and acted accordingly. Unfortunately some of their woolly headed, offspring experts that poured out of Whitlam’s open door universities, have now completely thrown in the towel.
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23152693-911,00.html
    Well may they say sorry because nothing will save them from their total shame and moral bankruptcy now.

  20. John Quiggin
    February 4th, 2008 at 13:45 | #20

    Bolt is indeed a prime instance of the parallel universe on this as on global warming delusionism. The longer the Liberals pay attention to people like him, the longer they will stay in the wilderness. It’s not a slur on previous generations to point out that their actions caused great suffering and contributed to the present problems we face.

    For all its talk about “practical reconciliation”, the Howard government mostly let things slide, except where the political symbolism of things suited them, most notably with “sending in the armed forces”.

    Having taken the necessary symbolic steps, Rudd is obligated to follow up with practical action. Obviously, we need to keep up pressure on this front.

  21. wilful
    February 4th, 2008 at 14:17 | #21

    They simply saw dirt, squalour and neglect and acted accordingly.

    yeah, that explains it. Sure. And of course it was those dann university educated types that have ruined Aboriginal affairs.

  22. Andrew
    February 4th, 2008 at 14:32 | #22

    Nope – the thing that ruined Aboriginal affairs was the setting up of outback Aboriginal ‘townships’ that have no reason to exist other than to house displaced indigineous Australians who don’t fit neatly into modern Western townships and who don’t want to continue living a hunter/gatherer lifestyle in a modern age. No wonder they have problems with alcohol and violence in these towns – can you imagine how mind-numbingly boring that existance must be? Parking Aboriginals away in these distant ghettos – away from middle Australia so their appalling living conditions won’t offend us is a disgrace. That’s what we should be apologising for.

    Scrap these towns and settlements I say. If these’s no reason for a town to exist other than to house an Aboriginal ‘problem’ then the town shouldn’t exist. Let Aboriginals choose. They can live a traditional Aboriginal life on the land (and let’s give them some back – decent land not desert) – or they can live a modern Western style life in our modern cities or properly functioning outback towns that exist for a reason (agriculture, mining etc).

  23. Spiros
    February 4th, 2008 at 14:39 | #23

    Andrew, that is very simplistic. Aboriginals who live in or near cities and country towns do no better on all the social and economic indicators than those who live in ‘townships’.

  24. February 4th, 2008 at 14:43 | #24

    Andrew Bartlett is spot on:

    Nelson’s problem isn’t even that he’s refusing to indicate support for an apology – it’s that he’s so obviously all over the place on his justifications, thus appearing to be without any conviction at all on it.

    Nelson has found himself in charge of the Lolly Shop but he has no time to figure out how to run the place, because all the other kids are madly trying to bash the door down. If only they realised that all the lollies have gone now!

    And Rudd is playing it safe, for the time being at least, to the shame of all the anti-Howard activists who helped bring him to power. Of course, we expected no more. For the time being at least.

    We have taken one small step forward by getting rid of Howard, but we remain subjected to the US military-industrial complex’s preferred two-party system of pro-US, pro-war, pro-Corporatist Democracy. With luck, we just might have destroyed the coalition parties (and the Greens might emerge as a genuine alternative to the “centrists” in Rudd’s Labor party), but much will depend on how the Liberals manage themselves over the next few years. I hope Rudd will heed the warning of Tony Blair’s demise: the Tories were decimated until Blair signed up to Bush’s ill-advised adventure in Iraq. Let’s not give the Liberals the same opportunity for re-growth, eh Kev?

    And let’s fund a proper apology by slashing the budgets of Defence, ASIO and the ADF, for starters.

  25. observa
    February 4th, 2008 at 14:48 | #25

    “For all its talk about “practical reconciliationâ€?, the Howard government mostly let things slide, except where the political symbolism of things suited them, most notably with “sending in the armed forcesâ€?.”

    The Howard govt was always hamstrung and straightjacketed by the raucous cacophany of Dreamtimers. It’s political hands were tied by a producer group that defied any reasonable criticism or long overdue attempts at reform. That only changed fractionally when Labor finally bit the bullet and ditched ATSIC, long after the writing was on the wall.

    “It’s not a slur on previous generations to point out that their actions caused great suffering and contributed to the present problems we face.”

    It’s a slur to pretend that neglected and abused children can have their cake and eat it- i.e. be removed from intolerable situations for a better upbringing and start in life, as well as play happy families with those from whom they needed to be quarantined in the first place.

  26. Andrew
    February 4th, 2008 at 14:55 | #26

    Spiros,

    By definition, any solution that is outlined in 2 paragraphs in a blog like this is going to be simplistic. This is a problem that has vexed far more intelligent people than me over decades. There is no magic wand. I do know, however, that if you put a bunch of people together in one spot, give them nothing to do but access to alcohol – trouble results. It’s not an Aboriginal issue – it’s a problem that crosses all boundaries. There was a very good lab experiment on Channel Ten that proved the point – called Big Brother.

  27. observa
    February 4th, 2008 at 15:10 | #27

    “the thing that ruined Aboriginal affairs was the setting up of outback Aboriginal ‘townships’ that have no reason to exist other than to house displaced indigineous Australians who don’t fit neatly into modern Western townships and who don’t want to continue living a hunter/gatherer lifestyle in a modern age.”

    Andrew’s half right here but the alternatives are bleak unless we can offer a drastically revised constitutional marketplace that demands the skills they do have, which was always the underlying attraction of well meaning Dreamtimers in the first place. I’ve outlined that constitutional marketplace reform before.

  28. Bingo Bango Boingo
    February 4th, 2008 at 15:30 | #28

    Andrew is right. Obviously every community is different, but social and economic isolation is fundamentally destructive. You could take 100 nice little white middle-class families and put them in the outback for a few generations with broadly similar, or worse, results.

    BBB

  29. chrisl
    February 4th, 2008 at 15:34 | #29

    Spot on Andrew : There is no magic wand.
    And saying sorry isn’t it.

  30. February 4th, 2008 at 16:58 | #30

    wiz, there is no magic bullet for the aboriginal question, but maintaining them in a state of dependency can’t be right. a fair few native americans fought in ww2, and some of them took advantage of the “g. i. bill” (education grant.) to turn themselves into lawyers.

    the result has been independence on their own land for many tribes , in some cases tribal wealth, and in the case of the navaho, on whose land i lived for three years, a very evident pride and self-confidence. the contrast with the reality and attitudes evident here are marked.

  31. rog
    February 4th, 2008 at 17:20 | #31

    Nelson should keep quiet on the matter, we’ve had the election, no need to run over it again.

    Essentially Rudd is continuing Lib policy and the conditional nature of this “sorry” will upset plenty of other Aboriginals.

  32. rog
    February 4th, 2008 at 17:22 | #32

    BBB, most whites would not live in the outback, there’s no reason for them to do so.

  33. February 4th, 2008 at 20:14 | #33

    Nelson is in an interesting personal situation with this. His backers are anti-sorry, he’s adopted a ‘maybe-not’ approach and offered the prospect of conscience vote for the dinosaurs. Yet my reading of him personally is that he would support an apology. Will he support it, and irk his backers, or will he join them?

    He’s managed to make this maximally complicated for himself.

  34. February 4th, 2008 at 20:27 | #34

    Reading over the comments there is some real confusion over the history and development of the ‘town camps’. I think similiar confusion exists over the reason for this apology. Opponents should have a look at the comments of ex-NT CM Ian Tuxworth (a good ol’ Territoian red neck) for a dose of reality,

    “You cannot compare it with today but I think what you can say from hindsight is that there were parts of it we got badly wrong and we did a lot of damage to lives and families.

    It is time for us to be generous and just have some dignity about it – not to say we will agree if you change that word or this word.

    We have about 300,000 Aboriginal people in the community and we actually need everyone of them to be a contributor to the country, the economy, to sport or whatever it is.

    Some people have been beaten down so badly that they will find it hard to ever get up and if things like this make it easier we ought to do it.”

  35. Pepper
    February 4th, 2008 at 21:08 | #35

    Actually I have a magic bullet suggestion for remote communities. Broadband internet access. The idea would be to seduce the kids to another world.

  36. Peter Wood
    February 4th, 2008 at 21:48 | #36

    The announcement by the Rudd government that they would oppose compensation for the stolen generation seems very similar to the politics of the Howard government. For better or for worse, colonisation of Australia brought with it a system of laws including “common law”. Common law includes the notion of a “tort” – if I do something wrong to someone, they are eligible to compensation from me. The governments refusal to compensate the stolen generation is a denial of their common law rights and is therefore extremely disrespectful.

    The governments argument that money should instead be spent on health and education is a furphy because they are not mutually exclusive and the government should be properly funding health and education for Aboriginal people anyway, which it is not.

  37. February 4th, 2008 at 21:54 | #37

    Pepper,

    Most already have it. A bit slow and sometimes unreliable, but it’s there.

  38. Ian Gould
    February 4th, 2008 at 22:02 | #38

    “They simply saw dirt, squalour and neglect and acted accordingly.”

    Said action being to remove all so-called mixed-race children from their parents regardless of their living conditions while leaving so-called full-blooded Aboriginal children in the aforesaid “dirt, squalor and neglect”.

    Or maybe Observa has another explanation as to why some children were removed from their families while their half-brothers and half-sisters were left with them.

    But, the children who were taken were much better off – its not like Australian orphanages and foster homes at the time were hotbeds of sexual and physical abuse.

    Oh wait, I’m sure that that abuse didn’t really exist until those damn trouble-making academics got involved.

  39. Ian Gould
    February 4th, 2008 at 22:21 | #39

    “Nope – the thing that ruined Aboriginal affairs was the setting up of outback Aboriginal ‘townships’ that have no reason to exist other than to house displaced indigineous Australians who don’t fit neatly into modern Western townships and who don’t want to continue living a hunter/gatherer lifestyle in a modern age.”

    Who exactly do you think set up those townships?

    “Weipa began as a Presbyterian Aboriginal mission outpost in 1898.”

    “In 1914 the original Government Aboriginal settlement was established on the Hull River near Mission Beach on the Australian mainland but, on 10 March 1918, the structures were destroyed by a cyclone and never rebuilt. Subsequently, the settlement relocated to Palm Island with the new population referred to as the Bwgcolman people. In the first two decades of its establishment 1,630 Indigenous people from at least 57 different language speaking places throughout Queensland were relocated to Palm.”

    “The town has a sad history, which has been drscribed in at least two books, Dumping Ground by Thom Blake and Is That You Ruthie? by Ruth Hegarty. Starting in 1904, indigenous people who became known as the Stolen Generation, were forcibly removed from their homes and “settled” at Cherbourg. Sometimes they were sent there as punishment for refusing to work on white owned farms.”

    References from the relevant wikipedia articles

    The townships weren’t invented by the Whitlam government as some people apparently want to believe.

    Aboriginal people were dispossess from their land often by force. They were forced – at the threat of imprisonment or worse – to remain on the reserves.

    People don’t stay in those communities because of “sit-down money” or land rights or any of the other bogus rationalisations put about.

    They stay in them because, in general, living standards for people who move away from them to town camps or even to large cities are even worse.

    Even if people from the communities could find work in say Alice Springs (doubtful given their poor educational backgrounds and let’s be honest out-and-out racism), they’d immediately be descended up on by alcoholic indigent members of their extended families or clans demanding (quite often with accompanying threats of violence) food, alcohol and a place to stay.

    Clean up the town camps, improve education in the communities, create more work opportunities for indigenous people and see whether they choose to stay on the communities or not.

    Oh and if anyone’s doubtful about that racism comment: I once spoke to a store owner from western Queensland who complained about how the local town was dying and he was unable to find a junior to work in his store. I asked if he’d considered trying the latest Aboriginal community a few kilometres down the road. His response was that if he did the kid would inevitably steal, would have dozens of his drunken relatives hanging around stealing and assaulting customers and that even if this didn’t happen half his white customers would refuse to shop with him any more.

  40. Ian Gould
    February 4th, 2008 at 22:29 | #40

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/IndigLRes/stolen/stolen21.html#Heading9

    “Many children experienced brutality and abuse in children’s homes and foster placements. In the WA Aboriginal Legal Service sample of 483 people who had been forcibly removed, almost two-thirds (62.1%) reported having been physically abused (submission 127 page 50). Children were more likely to have been physically abused on missions (62.8% of those placed on missions) than in foster care (33.8%) or government institutions (30.7%) (submission 127 page 53).

    Witnesses to the Inquiry were not specifically asked whether they had experienced physical abuse. Nevertheless, 28% reported that they had suffered physical brutality much more severe, in the Inquiry’s estimation, than the typically severe punishments of the day.

    Stories of sexual exploitation and abuse were common in evidence to the Inquiry. Nationally at least one in every six (17.5%) witnesses to the Inquiry reported such victimisation. A similar proportion (13.3%) reported sexual abuse to the WA Aboriginal Legal Service: 14.5% of those fostered and 10.9% of those placed on missions (submission 127 pages 51-53).”

    “Dr Jane McKendrick and her colleagues in Victoria in the mid-1980s surveyed an Aboriginal general medical practice population by interviewing participants twice over a three-year period. One-third of the participants had been separated from their Aboriginal families and communities during childhood. Most of the separations had occurred before the child had reached 10 years of age and lasted until adulthood. Most of the separations were believed by the children to have been on `welfare’ grounds (and not because parents were deceased or had voluntarily relinquished them).

    These separated people were twice as likely to suffer psychological distress in adulthood than the remainder of the participants: 90% of participants who had been separated were psychologically distressed for most of the three years of the study, compared with 45% of the participants who had been brought up within their Aboriginal families. Depression accounted for nearly 90% of diagnoses. Factors offering protection against the development of depression and other distress included a strong Aboriginal identity, frequent contact with ones Aboriginal extended family and knowledge of Aboriginal culture.

    Overall, two-thirds of the Aboriginal participants were found to be significantly psychologically distressed throughout the three years of the study. The contrast with non-Indigenous general practice populations is telling. `The rates of psychological distress in non Aboriginal general practice samples vary from 15 to 30 per cent.”

    Of course, the fact that for two or three generations a large proportion of the entire Aboriginal population were physically and sexually abused while in foster care and suffered mental illness as adults had absolutely no influence on their own child-raising abilities.

  41. February 4th, 2008 at 22:54 | #41

    The election was tighter than most people think it was.

    The number of people who support an apology is significantly less than the number who voted labor at the federal election.

    Rudd is able to join the dots between those two facts.

  42. wbb
    February 4th, 2008 at 23:30 | #42

    Happily Rudd doesn’t need to worry about polls on this issue, satp. He’s in government now – and will act properly without regard for the numbers. Which are unknown anyway.

  43. Mark Picton
    February 5th, 2008 at 00:00 | #43

    The Liberals are not doing this to themselves. The government is employing similar tactics to the Howard government’s playing of the Beazley opposition over border protection and terrorism: ensuring that the opposition comes along but gets no credit for doing so and winds up divided in the process.

    Tough gig, opposition.

  44. Ian Gould
    February 5th, 2008 at 00:14 | #44

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/04/2154114.htm

    “The Central Land Council says better policing and education on Aboriginal Land would be more helpful than removing permits.

    Council director David Ross has rejected claims by the likes of former Labor Party president Warren Mundine that opening up communities to outsiders would help protect children and stimulate economic development.

    Mr Ross says Aborginal people want the system to stay and economic and crime issues can be tackled through other means.

    “People are getting their knickers in a knot about permits when they shouldn’t be.

    “They should be getting their knickers in a knot about having more police in communities because that’s what people have been asking for for the last 20 years or more. Rather than saying take away our permits, (we’ve) been saying give us police, have police stationed here (and) give us better education systems.” ”

    As I said, what Aborigines in remote communities want and need is better policing and better education – a fewer stunts like the “intervention” by John Howard’s government which delivered fewer than one additional police officer per community.

  45. February 5th, 2008 at 00:15 | #45

    Ian, good points.

    There is similiar amnesia on the formation of the much malinged ‘town-camps’. In Alice they began to appear in the early 1900s. People were being pushed from traditional lands -’land rights’ were not even on the horizon – and were not welcome in town itself, but were tolerated on the fringes. Now, many people prefer to stay in the town-camps as opposed to the demands of public housing tenancy in town. And as the recent events have shown, ‘normalisation’ of the town-camps isn’t a high priortiy for the residents, given that they have largely avoided the ‘normalised’ option that already exists. It’s not that town-camp residents don’t want improved facilities and amenities, but they want it done in the way they find appropriate and under their control, which is hardly surprising given their past experiences.

  46. Donald Oats
    February 5th, 2008 at 00:28 | #46

    observa (#19) said “No matter, their carefully constructed symbolics won’t dampen the enthusiasm for more sit down money in large chunks and it’s then that we’ll see how wise he’s been in disgracefully slurring my parent’s generation. They simply saw dirt, squalour and neglect and acted accordingly.”

    If it was as simple as seeing dirt, squalour, etc, then why did the removals concentrate upon saving the half-castes, quadroons and octoroons, but not the full-bloods? The answer is spread across the readings and enactments throughout the 20th century.

    As for “disgracefully slurring” your parents’ generation: societal attitudes change over time, and in any case, individual attitudes within a society cover a wide spectrum. What previous generations thought of the practices under the Native Welfare Act 1963 (for one example) needs to be understood in the context of the time. I don’t see why saying sorry now to those affected individuals is in any way a slur upon my parents or your parents’ generation.

    Put another way, has any government apologised to the people affected by the Maralinga atomic bomb tests (including the service men and women, as well as aborigines)? Observa, would you take it as a slur on your parents’ generation if the government did apologise?

  47. February 5th, 2008 at 08:41 | #47

    Pepper said:

    “Broadband internet access. The idea would be to seduce the kids to another world.”

    I think Aboriginal communities already have enough porn!

    Or are you thinking they will all log on to Prof Q’s blog for some intellectual wanking? LOL.

  48. Spiros
    February 5th, 2008 at 08:42 | #48

    “The number of people who support an apology is significantly less than the number who voted labor at the federal election”

    Really? Wilson Tuckey supports it, Shane Stone supports it, even Tony Abbott supports it (sort of). If everybody to the left of Tuckey supports it, that’s nine tenths of the population.

  49. wbb
    February 5th, 2008 at 10:03 | #49

    As I said, what Aborigines in remote communities want and need is better policing and better education – and fewer stunts like the “interventionâ€? by John Howard’s government which delivered fewer than one additional police officer per community.

    Ian – what is the nature of the policing problem in Remote Communities? Is a doubling of police numbers required for example? And what is the enhanced police presence designed to achieve? Which laws need to be better enforced? Or enforced at all?

  50. Pepper
    February 5th, 2008 at 10:03 | #50

    To #47 gandhi

    No. I expect they would play computer games like other children.

    I don’t think what they do is critical. The point is to perceive the wider world, find it attractive, think it possibly attainable, and perhaps acquire some skills useful in dealing with it.

  51. Pepper
    February 5th, 2008 at 12:38 | #51

    Michael at #37 said
    “Most already have it. A bit slow and sometimes unreliable, but it’s there.”

    I think that unreliable and slow is not quite what I meant by broadband access. It sounds nominal.

    Can say, any five year old in a remote community access the internet more or less anytime? And does it work well enough to enable the things we expect of a modern connection, well enough to hold a child’s attention?

    As I understand it, merely keyboard and literacy skills would be progress in that environment.

  52. philip travers
    February 5th, 2008 at 12:39 | #52

    So it hasnt occured to anyone here,that their intellectual qualities just do not seem that significan!?.Now if our society isnt racist,and one large section of the whole society,in large enough numbers within that large section required of a small number,just exactly one individual…one word,and that one word in English,rather than any number of traditional languages be said,what then can be said of the output generally here!?I would say, that all here can google the numbers of adult Australians,and the population changes since the reason for saying… Sorry became a prominent thing.Howard said sorry a number of times in his Leadership role.But he couldnt say that to Aboriginal groups,even though,no great difficulty would eventuate,as great as other circumstances where he did.This problem of Howards,not anyones ,consideration of how he can represent all Australians wasnt the problem with him.Because he chose to represent all Australians interests by other means regularly.That is some unconstructed work requirement.I am disgusted by any number of people here,and doesnt take into account the emotional value of just one English word.Be lucky,if you had a major breakdown in frienships and companions that were significant in ones life,and all it required was five alphabetic letters spoken,what would you do.Why isnt personal for you here!?Accept to claim that saying sorry implies ,somehow the lessening of oneselves own value!?Andrew Bartlett points out the failure of the ALP approach,which is significantly harsher on them ,than Nelson,the ex-medical Doctor.

  53. snuh
    February 5th, 2008 at 15:04 | #53

    The Liberals are not doing this to themselves. The government is employing similar tactics to the Howard government’s playing of the Beazley opposition over border protection and terrorism: ensuring that the opposition comes along but gets no credit for doing so and winds up divided in the process.

    it is impressive/depressing how quickly rudd is applying the lessons from the howard years. maybe quarterly essay should get busy commissioning someone to write “towards a progressive wedge politics” or something.

  54. philip travers
    February 5th, 2008 at 16:54 | #54

    I am so offended by the ALP now,on that matter of the dredging of Port Philip Bay,not out of a similar name,but out of the fact I lived on the Westernport Bay side of the Mornington Peninsula,and the as yet undisclosed cost of a Papal visit,and both the fuzz and the A.S.I.O. pigs unable to really justify all the security measures for their pay rate increases,unless there are some security matters to justify their incomes.Then there is the military intervention in the Northern Territory,and, we await our shortest ALP Prime Minister in history to do something..that the only thing left is go to a bloody Doctor like Nelson,and say I have had it,with Democracy.And what has Nelson actually stated to be so passionately copping it,from our PM. and appendage to the security laws!? Nothing!?

  55. February 5th, 2008 at 17:04 | #55

    I find it quite amazing, that those predominantly right wing people have no problem with showing empathy at the Wailing Wall, to recall the horror of what the Jewish people suffered, but have great difficulty showing the same empathy, coupled with regret or a sense of shame at the attempted genocide of aboriginal people. It is clearly stated, that the aim at the beginning of last century was to get rid of the aboriginal race. The removal of those ‘lighter’ coloured children, many as a result of repeated rapes, were put into the broader community to assimilate and speed up the process. (This is documented in many places – Henry Reynolds, “This Whispering in our Hearts” also, “Why Weren’t we Told” and Peter Read’s “A Rape of the Soul So Profound”) Moreover, I’ve not long finished reading “Demons at Dusk” written by Peter Stewart after 20 years research of the Massacre at Myall Creek, on 15 June 1838. 28 mostly aboriginal women, children and babies were murdered and mutillated. There were thousands more killings before and after this time. There is no doubt that there was a ‘grand plan’ so let’s call it what it was – attempted genocide!

    The aboriginal people never relinquished their right to their land, their culture or their languages – many had their languages bashed out of them, while being ‘looked after’ in the many institutions; whether they were run by the religious groups or the states. It was horrendous, caused immense pain, displacement, anger, resentment and anguish. What it also did, was remove generations from a loving environment, by which most of us hopefully, learn our parenting skills, and our sense of identity and pride. I can’t imagine my life without knowing my parents or my 8 siblings. Many children were even separated from their own siblings, such was the heartless need to remove any form of humanity from their lives. As a non-aboriginal woman who voted “Yes”in the 1967 Referndum, with 3 adult children and 5 grand children, I can not understand why some people lack a basic sense of justice, and have can’t empathasize with those who suffered. Aboriginal people born in the 1960′s, the same decade as my sons, were forcibly torn from their mother’s arms, perhaps by people a bit older than I was (I was in my late teens/20′s)what generation/s is Brendon Nelson hung up about. Children were removed up until the 1970′s – couldn’t that generation be present in the country now?

    How unjust must it feel to have your land stolen from you, and then have to fight in the ‘thief’s court’ to get it back. Surely, people can relate it to their own homes and families, if they are too much of a bigot to have empathy with black people. Then they were tossed here and there, with barren land in many cases, without any security or permanent ‘place’ and then abused because they didn’t ‘pull it off’.

    In the broader community, whenever there’s a tragedy that involves violence (Bali) people are offered psychological counselling. It’s not too hard to accept, that such trauma requires some pretty positive interception, to prevent traumas festering in later times. Aboriginal people did not have this to fall back on. Many didn’t have their own parents or broader community to offer simple human responses to extreme pain and anger. The shock jocks and those in the written media who scream that I’m a member of the latte set or some other insult, only show their evil and wanton hearts and spirits.

    I don’t give a hoot if only 60% of the SMH poll believe that there should be an apology. We can try and encourage people to join us, but if they insist on their hateful journey, then in the words of Mick Dodson, “we simply must leave them behind”. I’ve been more than happy to be part of the reconciliation process – I just want to know what I can do. Maybe my being outspoken against racism whenever and wherever it presents itself, is a damned good start.

    Perhaps, this time, under this government, us whites might just sit down and listen, instead of the patriarchal and patronizing attitudes that permeated aboriginal lives for too long – us telling them what they need and want. I don’t want to hear one more story about, “after all we did for them” or I’ll be physically ill. None of us like to be patronized, and as a woman, I probably can relate to it more than most men.

    It would be unthinkable for the broader community to be invaded by the police and military as a ‘cure’ for sexual assault and domestic violence. It’s happening in the broader community too! It’s a typical reaction from a colonial framework, and that was the best that Howard could offer. Removing the Anti-Discrimination aspect to the law only made it easier to make smooth running for those who’d successfully made claims for mining leases. White people gamble their kids food money too, but to garnisheer incomes would be howled down as the actions of a despot, and rightly so. In fact, I heard a counsellor tell the story of a 6 month trial, for people on pensions or benefits receiving their incomes on a weekly basis instead of fortnightly. With advice and counselling, people were managing their money much better. Guess what happened? After the trial and even with people begging for its continuation – it ceased, and the old program reintroduced. Fancy that? You could almost think it was done deliberately – that they were set up to fail? That would probably make me a conspiracy theorist? Hysterical at best!

    Let’s also look at why places like Palm Island were set up, and the pathetic reasons why aboriginl people were sent to this ‘black penal colony’. For being a ‘bad influence’ on the rest of the population, by refusing to sign the equivalent of an AWA – even though there was no legal compulsion to do so! Or, Cathy Freeman’s(SBS Sunday “Who Do You Think You Are?”) parents requesting permission to visit their parents? Permission refused, and this was 1963! Hardly back in the dark ages. Every generation of her ancestors were treated in a racist manner in some large or ‘nit picking’ way. Even her great-great grandfather – served in WW1 and yet his wife could not access his money! They weren’t deemed capable of handling money!

    Then, there’s all those aboriginal people who were denied their wages for years. The sum total owed to them is at least millions of $$$$. Just imagine that. But, they’re not entitled to any compensation we’re told. The country has become prosperous by stealing their land and resources. We’ve all benefited by the racist and unjust policies of the past. Gross ignorance and mean spirited owners of wealth, and their mouthpieces are quite happy to continue the injustices. Let’s tell them, LOUDLY that’s not our idea of a democracy or justice. Let’s just get on with it, together, side by side, not talking down to anyone, and ensure that aboriginal people receive the same items that we demand and quite rightly take for granted – health care, education, housing and decent and sustainable employment. Let’s get rid of the pedophiles and other abusers, black and white, and really take care of those who’ve suffered, with dignity and compassion! And let’s educate to remove the myths and racist untruths by public education programs, via TV, printed media and the education system!

  56. February 5th, 2008 at 17:17 | #56

    “Can say, any five year old in a remote community access the internet more or less anytime? And does it work well enough to enable the things we expect of a modern connection, well enough to hold a child’s attention? ” – Pepper.

    Pepper,

    I’m not sure that braodband access for 5 yr olds in non-Indigenous communities is at the standard you’re suggesting.

    The basic point is probably misconceived; that Indigenous Australians encountering a broader world thru technology will want to embrace it.
    TV has been pretty popular for a long time and it hasn’t achieved this. I’m not sure how the change of medium will significantly alter that. The exposure to a broader world is just as likely to lead to a rejection of it, as a desire for it (which is what I think is the major response). There seems to be some confusion between the desirabilty of certain aspects of modern life with the embrace of a ‘mainstream’ lifestyle. The former will not necessarily lead to the latter. The advent of mobile phone coverage to many remote communities has led to rapid uptake of this techology, particularly by young females, but I’m not sure this translates into anything else signifcant.

  57. February 5th, 2008 at 17:23 | #57

    What Paul said at #4 with qualification.

    There actually might be a sizable section of the electorate that opposes the apology. According to News Ltd polls it’s well more than half of us, and these polls are famous for their non-partisan reliability. :)

    But what core constituency opposes the apology when you think about it. Is it one necessarilly associated with the Libs? The Libs now have to sort thru which aspects of their agenda the public has flatly rejected and which ones it wants to see refurbushed for the future.

    The ALP had a similar taskpost -’96. And however one regards Beazley it has to be admitted he had a tough job that was inevitably thankless. Nelson’s task will be likewise. He obviously won’t survive. The true contest is likely Abbott (or some such) vs Turnball.

    I’ve been reading a lot of triumphal commentary re the Rudd victory. It’s nice to see that chest-beating isn’t the sole province of the Right.

  58. February 5th, 2008 at 17:28 | #58

    I find it quite amazing, that those predominantly right wing people have no problem with showing empathy at the Wailing Wall, to recall the horror of what the Jewish people suffered, but have great difficulty showing the same empathy, coupled with regret or a sense of shame at the attempted genocide of aboriginal people.

    It’s easier to be sympathetic to the victims of others. One’s own victims are a little more difficult to commiserate with. It necessitates facing unpleasant facts.

    Also the culture war has devolved this issue into a semantic pissing contest. CF – Andrew Bolt: name one child ‘stolen’ because of her or his race Dr. Manne etc.

  59. Ikonoclast
    February 5th, 2008 at 18:06 | #59

    The right wing have a patholgocal fear that saying “sorry” will cost them money. Compensation claims are their great fear.

    With the right ring it’s always about money and power. All money, materials and power must belong to them, a small elite group. Everything must be for them and nothing for anyone else. It’s that simple.

  60. Ikonoclast
    February 5th, 2008 at 18:10 | #60

    Aaaarrrghhh, I meant “pathological”. Don’t you hate it when you hit enter and then see a great carbuncle of a typo sitting in the middle of your text?

    And I called them the “right ring” second time round. Well I guess they are always shi****g on everyone else from a great height.

  61. Hermit
    February 5th, 2008 at 19:53 | #61

    Something the triumphalists forget is that the apology could backfire. There may (or may not) be compensation claims and a host of inconsistencies could emerge. These could involve past aboriginal and white adoptees as well as issues with present day aboriginal children. The ‘moving on’ part may not happen. Outside of the apology I see trouble ahead for Rudd on several fronts, yet another reason not to crow just yet. FWIW I voted for an independent candidate in the last election.

  62. February 5th, 2008 at 21:00 | #62

    Yes, let’s be frozen by fear of the possible consequences of doing the right thing.

    Doing the right thing isn’t about what is or isn’t in it for us. If there are negative consequences, that won’t be a “backfire”. If they occur, we’ll just have to deal with them.

  63. observa
    February 5th, 2008 at 21:13 | #63

    The one inescapable fact that stares all the usual suspects with their stolen generation mythology is simply this. For all their blatherings and the plethora of Lasrys, Burnsides and Kirbys, etc, only too willing to take up the ‘victim’ cudgel on their behalf, only one of their so called stolen generation has managed to get compensation for that very reason. A Point Pearce gent that upon receiving an award of $500, 000 reckons he’ll be able to buy a house, get off the grog and turn his life around now. We’ll see, but we’re not talking about legal proof here in the sense of proven beyond reasonable doubt, but compensatory law on the balance of probabilities. Not one thousand, not one hundred, not ten, but uno, solitary, one only out of the total universal set, rather than some recall therapist, shrink professor’s, derived imaginings of a subset of 10 year olds Ian Gould waffles on about. You all got that fact straight now?

    As for racism, how come half caste Australians are always aboriginal all of a sudden? Are they all racist against their white, yellow or brindle heritage or something? Who has encouraged this blatant racism in all of them we might well wonder. If they were pure non racists wouldn’t we expect the preference split to be 50%? One for the sociologists to look into, to get to the bottom of all that racism no doubt.

    As for being sorry with someone elses sweat and toil all the time, I’d rate that right up there with carbon offsets and the SA cabinet going green on taxpayers expense, not to mention $50 million splashed about by Federal and State Labor for 1000 Mitsubishi workers about to be made redundant, with all their entitlements owing to them fully paid. Me I’m not into all this sorry apartheid and divine right of elected kings. I’m into a level playing field, social safety net for all, no matter what the colour of your skin. or how many mates in high places you’ve got. That’s adults I’m talking about. I’ve got special rules for kids and it doesn’t include hiding the sins of adults behind mass innoculation schemes and keeping my proxy eyes and ears out of filthy adult business, with apartheid permits.

  64. Bobalot
    February 5th, 2008 at 22:02 | #64

    If we can take pride in past achievements, such as the bravery of our soldiers at Gallipoli. We can feel sorry for the wrongs of the past. Simple as that. You can’t have it both ways without being an enormous hypocrite.

    As for people saying the kids were better off. Perhaps some were. Many weren’t. Many were used as virtual slave labor on farms. Many were abused by churchmen etc.

    Putting money in re-uniting families would be a good idea.

  65. February 5th, 2008 at 22:05 | #65

    “As for racism, how come half caste Australians are always aboriginal all of a sudden? Are they all racist against their white, yellow or brindle heritage or something?” – observa

    What would you do without such sweeping generalisations to pad out your nonsense?

    Do you know every mixed race person in Australia and how they express their heritage??

  66. JM
    February 5th, 2008 at 23:05 | #66

    PM Lawrence @ #7: ” [~70 words] …. such as the claim to speak for me in moral matters. It is impertinent, at the very least … [~another 100 or so]

    You want the chance to annunciate your own moral position, but you forgot to do so, in the midst of a bit of trite posturing.

    We realize that’s an oversight on your part, so we’ll wait while you have a second shot at it.

    We certainly had no intention of being impertinent and not allow you to speak for yourself.

  67. gerard
    February 5th, 2008 at 23:13 | #67

    “With the right ring it’s always about money and power.”

    Well it’s even worse when it’s not about money and power. In the case of a certain uncle of mine, a Queensland Liberal and failed State parliamentary candidate, it’s just a thick, creamy spreading of childish, mean-spirited “not MY fault!” petulance over a dried-up crust of old-fashioned White Aussie Pride.

    At a recent family gathering, he interjected into an unrelated conversation I was having with another relative, who works in the State’s child welfare agency, with a “How about this “Sorry” business then – – with them good old “Traditional Owners” “.

    He always pushes his right-wing political beliefs into any conversation at the slightest opportunity. The sorry doesn’t cost him anything but it makes him feel self-righteous to disparage this small gesture of respect, which is sad.

  68. Ian Gould
    February 6th, 2008 at 00:14 | #68

    “I’m into a level playing field, social safety net for all, no matter what the colour of your skin. or how many mates in high places you’ve got.”

    Tel you what – you can have as level a playing field as you like provided I get to knee-cap half your team before the match starts.

  69. Ian Gould
    February 6th, 2008 at 01:22 | #69

    “…some recall therapist, shrink professor’s, derived imaginings of a subset of 10 year olds Ian Gould waffles on about. You all got that fact straight now?”

    So Obsewrva, I take you believe the vast majority of claims of sexual abuse by priests and of sexual and physical abuse against non-aboriginal children in orphanages and foster care in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s are also fraudulent?

  70. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 06:38 | #70

    The great stumbling block for the left now is their stolen generation of one, as determined by even our generous compensatory law system. That being the case, it’s now imperative for them to tear down its walls so they can create their own scapegoat generation and sheet blame elsewhere. Their Dreamtime, self determination industry of Michael Clarks, having fallen into complete and obvious disarray has left them with no other option, but to create their scapegoat generation to cover all the mirrors in the complete house of horrors they are now responsible for.

  71. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 07:07 | #71

    Politically of course that’s what Howard always understood, but Rudd now has to bear. It won’t matter what legalese Rudd can couch his sorry statement in to avoid the calls for compensation, the left will never let it go now. It’s not about the money now, but rather the artificail numbers they can create, whether it be for a dollar or a million is immaterial. For as long as their stolen generation consists only of one, there is no scapegoat generation to bear their failure, shame and moral bankruptcy. Rudd is on a hiding to nothing now in that regard.

  72. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 07:31 | #72

    The only advice I can give you Kevvy is perhaps to take some refuge in the classics as Confucius would say, because hell hath no fury like a leftist scorned and looking for a scapegoat mate.

  73. Gianni
    February 6th, 2008 at 08:03 | #73

    Yust say it! S O R R Y !

  74. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 08:39 | #74

    If the cap fits wear it Gianna.

  75. Ian Gould
    February 6th, 2008 at 10:17 | #75

    So Observa, got time to answer the questions you keep dodging?

    1. If as you claim the children were removed solely to protect them, why is it only mixed-race children were removed?

    2. Is it just Aborigines who report having been sexually and physically abused in foster care who you think are either liars or deluded?

  76. snuh
    February 6th, 2008 at 11:27 | #76

    The great stumbling block for the left now is their stolen generation of one, as determined by even our generous compensatory law system.

    maybe “the stolen generation of one” arises because “our generous compensatory law system” actually isn’t generous, and has actually been very conservative with these cases? i dunno why this implicates “the left.”

    also, your claim is not true. the state of tasmania now has a $5 million fund to compensate the stolen generation (presumably more than one of them). many, many members of the stolen generation have successfully brought claims in state victims’ comp tribunals for criminal abuse they experienced after being taken. and some dude named bruce trevorrow last year won a tort claim based on false imprisonment in the SA supreme court.

  77. February 6th, 2008 at 12:13 | #77

    “…You want the chance to annunciate your own moral position, but you forgot to do so, in the midst of a bit of trite posturing. We realize that’s an oversight on your part, so we’ll wait while you have a second shot at it…”

    And that’s offensive, too. I was not asking for any such chance while forgetting to do so; nor was I posturing. I was trying to demonstrate that regardless of the merits of the aborigines’ claims, this farrago was itself wrong. I am very, very, deeply angry – and your mockery from a position of tunnel mvision is offensive too.

    You are overlooking what I am complaining about: the impertinence itself. Why on earth should I muddy the waters with what I feel about the aborigines, when I am unmoved by that?

    Today’s newspapers report that some Liberal MPS want a conscience vote on this matter. It is people who think that that is meaningless, that it is just tactical or something, who make me angry.

    For what it’s worth, I do not think aborigines ever suffered collectively, or that Australia then or now ever was collectively guilty of anything. I am sure that many individuals did suffer, but I have insufficient information to know whether that was by accident or design, wilful, reckless or negligent, or just precisely who was involved in commission or omission. And because of that last, I damned well know it is impertinent to suggest that I or any group ostensibly acting for me should apologise. It is as though I were to blame the Jews for the fact that I wasn’t brought up speaking Gaelic; after all, there were Jews in England when the native cultures of Scotland and Ireland were suppressed.

    My anger, though, comes only from the impertinence. Why on earth should I have brought up the aborigines?

    By the way, one suggestion for why only mixed race children were removed was, they were thought to be at risk from full-blooded aborigines taking it out on them.

  78. Ian Gould
    February 6th, 2008 at 19:57 | #78

    “By the way, one suggestion for why only mixed race children were removed was, they were thought to be at risk from full-blooded aborigines taking it out on them.”

    So the countless speeches by politicians and the countless newspaper articles proclaiming that the full-blooded Aborigines were doomed to die out and that the mixed-blood children needed to be rescued so their precious white blood could be redeemed were all an elaborate smokescreen to divert the animalistic fury of the vicious blood-crazed full bloods?

  79. rog
    February 6th, 2008 at 20:14 | #79

    Well my talking to aborigines has supported this, half castes were rejected entirely by full bloods.

  80. rog
    February 6th, 2008 at 20:18 | #80

    They also told me that when they were removed and sent to orphanages a long way away they copped it from the local aborigines as they were straying into different tribal territory.

    Tribal law is pretty tough when you get to know it, child molesters and other trangressors are taken out into the bush and killed.

  81. February 6th, 2008 at 20:59 | #81

    “Well my talking to aborigines has supported this, half castes were rejected entirely by full bloods.” – rog

    BS. Then who were they taken away from???

  82. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 21:57 | #82

    “also, your claim is not true. the state of tasmania now has a $5 million fund to compensate “the stolen generation (presumably more than one of them). many, many members of the stolen generation have successfully brought claims in state victims’ comp tribunals for criminal abuse they experienced after being taken. and some dude named bruce trevorrow last year won a tort claim based on false imprisonment in the SA supreme court.”

    Thanks for supplying the singular name of the Stolen Generation I mentioned above. He was just further awarded $200,000 in interest outstanding to help him turn his life around. As for the Tas victims comp tribunals that’s exactly my point. The left need these stacked tribunals to tear down the walls of our conventional compensatory legal judicial system in order to cook the books, thereby justifying their blame shifting to their scapegoat generation. The same conventional walls of the compensatory balance of probabilities that apply to the latest Sudanese refugee immigrant stepping off the plane as well as you and I. The States are small beer in terms of finances, which is somewhat restrictive of their ulterior motives, so the left will not rest here until Rudd opens up the Federal Treasury for their main prize. It’s not the money it’s the cooked numbers they’re after.

  83. February 6th, 2008 at 22:09 | #83

    “As for racism, how come half caste Australians are always aboriginal all of a sudden?”
    observa Feb 5 -9.13pm.

    A person is legally an aboriginal person if they claim they are, and are recognized by others to be so. I think in 2008 we could finally get rid of the 2/3 and 1/2 and 3/4 caste don’t you think? It’s revolting, demeaning and is not used against anglo-saxons? I’m never told or asked whether I’m 1/2 Irish, or 2/3 Aussie etc, not is it used in describing Italians, Greeks or Afghanis. Part of moving on, is to get rid of the racist shit that denigrated and described aboriginal people in a negative way. Read some descriptions etc in early 1900′s – they should make you ill. Further it was alleged, that the aim was to get rid of the race. Removing ‘light skinned’ kids was to make them ‘whiter’. Many of these children were a result of whites raping aboriginal women. (Read Alan Ramsay’s SMH article last weekend, and Peter Stewart’s book, Demons at Dusk – I got a copy from my local library.)

    As far as compensation is concerned. The reason it’s so difficult, is because of the time factor, and much evidence is gone, particularly in the older ‘children’s’ claims. Much of that due to the wide gap in life expectancy. How many ‘whites’ take their cases to court, to sue when they’ve been wronged? That doesn’t bring on the wrath of the shock jocks does it? Could it be that the motivating factor is ingrained racism? No, surely not!
    It seems to escape the scared politicians, that one person has been successful, WITHOUT THE APOLOGY OF THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT, so that’s just rot.Look at the recent fiasco of Channel 7 and the sport story, millions it cost, and they could appeal. So let’s be clear what the issue is, and don’t use ingrained racism to argue it. And what about the morality of Howard using the allocated budget money to fight aboriginal quests for land rights? Is it the issue of seeking compensation, or is it because they’re aboriginals, or is it the money? If you don’t like living in a so-called democracy, where the justice system is supposed to be for all, then say so. It sounds like some people here believe in equality, it’s just that, in their mind, some are more equal than others! I reject that view!

    “You are overlooking what I am complaining about: the impertinence itself. Why on earth should I muddy the waters with what I feel about the aborigines, when I am unmoved by that”?

    PM Lawrence. Now you’re getting to the honest bit. I can assume, that you’re probably unmoved by a lot of human rights issues. If you can’t find it in yourself to utter a simple human response to the suffering of others – why bother to even discuss this? Go and talk about playing footy or having a beer and a bet or playing bingo!

    The undisputed fact is, that due to race and a need to dominate and steal their wealth (land – and it’s still happening)the goal was to get rid of them. Many people, generations of people suffered terribly. We have sympathy for the ANZAC’s etc, but not for others, particularly if they’re the indigenous people. Look how aboriginal people who also served were treated when they came home. How their money was denied to their wives while they were away fighting beside the white blokes. It was and still is and always will be, disgusting, demeaning, unjust, cruel and in too many cases, criminal. Kids in institutions brutalized at whim, for years, with no power and nowhere to go. What’s wrong with some of you people? Selective compassion?

    I’m also advised, that because the apology will be given in the Parliament, that ‘protects’this government from litigation. Obviously, unless you advocate a drastic change to the legal system and the constitution, aboriginal people are now included in the census (Referndum 1967, of which I voted ‘YES’) and therefore have the same right to access the judicial system as I do.

    Not one of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report have been proceeded with. The Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody is almost as bad. Both of these can be downloaded on the net. I suggest that some people read them – the life stories are harrowing to say the least. The Little Children Are Sacred was the 3rd inquiry during Howard’s time, into the abuse of women and children. The so-called urgent legislation to save these children, some 500 pages long, did not mention ‘child’ or ‘children’ once. Strange don’t you think? Was it also strange, that there also happened to be applications for mining etc for almost all of the NT. Why was the Anti-Racism legislation removed, and why was the permit system overturned, and why was it for the strange period of 5 years? Go take a look at the Amendments to the Native Title Act of 1996-8. The patronizing and paternalistic attitudes of successive governments blazed with Howard and his mates. Coupled with this was a criminal neglect of the plight of children; particularly when Howard had at least 2 major conferences, complete with photo shoot with aboriginal kids in swimming pools etc, plus elders and others around the cabinet table – a talk fest for the cameras, and nothing happened.
    It took how many years for his so-called ‘humanity’ to come to the fore. A last grab via police and military for minerals in the Northern Territory I believe. Who’s checking up on the white bastards who are abusing aboriginal kids? How many people have been charged, and how many kids have been saved or removed or????

    Entrenched racism, in and outside governments! It makes me puke!

  84. observa
    February 6th, 2008 at 23:04 | #84

    Of course in fairness to the left and their handling of aboriginal affairs, after usurping largely the role of the religious and the charitable, post Whitlam, they may only be guilty of at the same time therefore because of. When the First Fleet rolled up, aboriginals had not invented the wheel let alone reading or writing and as the pace of technological advance would quicken, there may have been a certain inevitability in their outcomes, short of some very rapid assimilation and integration. In this regard we need to appreciate that in 1920 it took men nearly a month to fly from London to Darwin to a cheering assembled crowd, but by 1969, they were stepping on the moon as much of the world looked on. That pace of change has not slowed any up to the present. Now you don’t need to sell hunter gatherers much on the benefits of antibiotics, refrigeration or 4WDs, but the sophisticated socioeconomic engagement that goes with that is much more problematic. Stolen Generation or no, perhaps their Rainbow Serpent Dreaming was always going to develop into much of their current nightmare, given their starting handicap. If that’s so, and I believe it largely is, then their only salvation will be a constitutional marketplace that demands the skills they do have but which are in such marginal demand under our current one. I’m only sorry more people don’t see that pressing need and act in aboriginals’ best long term interests and our own at the same time. I’m just not sorry enough in all the correct circles and proper ways I guess.

  85. snuh
    February 7th, 2008 at 08:52 | #85

    i’m not sure what any of that means, but i do not see how you can simultaneously believe:
    1. only one member of the stolen generation has ever received compensation; and
    2. our court system is too generous to people claiming compensation.

    these things are logically inconsistant, unless you also believe there is some huge conspiracy that fabricated the entire bringing the home report and the entire stolen generation is a myth. which maybe you do, who knows.

  86. February 7th, 2008 at 12:56 | #86

    “So the countless speeches by politicians and the countless newspaper articles proclaiming that the full-blooded Aborigines were doomed to die out and that the mixed-blood children needed to be rescued so their precious white blood could be redeemed were all an elaborate smokescreen to divert the animalistic fury of the vicious blood-crazed full bloods?” – no, IG, different people were asserting different things. I reported on one view I have heard. That does not mean that other people coming from other positions touted this (I know nothing on the point).

    Naomi Cartledge, you’re another example of the tunnel vision afflicting people who cannot understand those like me who don’t connect to collectivities. You write “PM Lawrence. Now you’re getting to the honest bit. I can assume, that you’re probably unmoved by a lot of human rights issues. If you can’t find it in yourself to utter a simple human response to the suffering of others – why bother to even discuss this?” But it is precisely because this isn’t about the sufferings of Fred or Bill, but about a generic apology to a generic group, that it is not about human suffering at all. I am unmoved by the group thing, but if you show me a Fred or a Bill, then and only then do we have something to talk about – until then, “Go and talk about playing footy or having a beer and a bet or playing bingo!”, or the natives of Borrioboola-Gah while ignoring actual people you can see around you if you must project into emptiness like that. Of course I am unmoved by “human rights issues”, I am only moved by what happens to real people, not by legal fictions and abstractions built around those. The only real thing here is what some impertinent pollies are proposing to wish on real people.

    “The undisputed fact is, that due to race and a need to dominate and steal their wealth (land – and it’s still happening)the goal was to get rid of them” – well, that is either a conscious lie, or invincible ignorance. Many other people have argued from many other viewpoints, claiming other actions or the same actions from other motives, so whatever the fact does turn out to be, one thing it bloody well is not is undisputed. This is sheer rhetorical thuggery.

  87. wizofaus
    February 7th, 2008 at 13:33 | #87

    PM Lawrence, I think you’re taking an unnecessarily abstract view of what “human rights issues” means. Most people would surely consider it to mean “actual instances of human rights abuse”, whether it’s torture, culpable neglect, child labour exploitation, racial discrimination, or whatever.

    Naomi’s view might be extreme, but there clearly have been, through history, people in power for whom the presence of indigineous peoples has been considered little more than a nuisance. This is hardly unique to Australia. Thankfully there are fewer and fewer such people, but it would be foolish to believe there were none left today.

  88. Andrew
    February 7th, 2008 at 15:07 | #88

    It’s funny, but I agree with most of what PM Lawrence is saying exception the conclusion. I think an apology to Indigineous Australians is warranted. It is indisputable that Aboriginals have less opportunity than mainstream Australia. That is a national disgrace, and we should apologise for it.

    However – we shouldn’t pass judgement on the actions of people 100 (or even 30) years ago through the prism of 2008. An apology shouldn’t be interpreted as modern Australia saying to Aboriginals “we’re sorry for what our predecessors to you”, it should be interpreted as meaning “we’re sorry you (as individuals) live in such appalling conditions and we promise to work hard to make it better now”.

    The debate should be around ‘how we make it better now’ rather than whether an apology is warranted.

    Aboriginal culture was doomed to fail in the long term. Perhaps that’s sad, perhaps that just global progress. But if it wasn’t British colonisation then it would have been someone else. That’s not racist – individually every Aboriginal has the capacity for greatness and should be given the opportunities to be great – we currently don’t. We’re not as brutal as our predecessors are, but we’re as morally misguided if we think keeping Aboriginal communities together in ‘town camps’ is the right thing to do. Ghettos of repressed individuals with no opportunity to fulfil their latent potential.

  89. February 7th, 2008 at 18:04 | #89

    No, “human rights issuesâ€? is like “peace process”, the Clayton’s version that deflects from the real thing. It is abstract, inherently.

    Going through your list one by one:-

    - torture is a bad thing, not a human rights issue;

    – culpable neglect is either a bad thing or made up and just called culpable because there wasn’t anything bad you could call it; only the latter is a human rights issue;

    – child labour exploitation, ditto;

    – racial discrimination, ditto.

    In other words, if you are calling it something generic like “human rights issueâ€?, you don’t have anything identifiable and specific.

    Andrew, where you go wrong is starting at the wrong end, with the genuine plight of the aborigines, describing it with the passive voice “I think an apology to Indigineous Australians is warranted”, and then inferring from the wording that you can reverse it to get “That is a national disgrace, and we should apologise for it” [emphasis added]. That “we” is an artefact you got from being sucked in by the abstractions; “we” do not exist. The rest justifies our being charitable and showing real good will from any real concern each one of us may feel – but laying an obligation on “us” is going beyond that, lumping me (and you, and you) in with that made up “us”, and that is what is offensive and impertinent. That’s where blood guilt for Jews for killing Christ came from, doesn’t that show you how it does not work?

    As for ‘An apology shouldn’t be interpreted as modern Australia saying to Aboriginals “we’re sorry for what our predecessors to youâ€?, it should be interpreted as meaning “we’re sorry you (as individuals) live in such appalling conditions and we promise to work hard to make it better nowâ€?’ – well, chum, then that’s not an apology, it’s just one more exercise in hiding things behind layers of abstraction, stealing into the captain’s cabin and falsifying the charts to make them look prettier and be damned to needing them to steer clear of rocks.

  90. wizofaus
    February 7th, 2008 at 18:18 | #90

    Torture, child labour exploitation and racial discrimination are all abuses of human rights. They are exactly the sorts of things I imagine when others talk of “human rights issues”.

    I’m pretty sure it’s what Naomi had in mind too. Though she is free to correct me.

    There are cases in which the phrase “human rights issues” is used in a more abstract sense, e.g. discussing concern about possible “human rights issues” that could appear in a hypothetical situation. But that certainly doesn’t seem to be how Naomi intended the term.

  91. February 7th, 2008 at 22:17 | #91

    Wizofaus, those things may have been what you had in mind when you started talking about human rights, but the way this thing works, it layers it and encysts it in abstraction. Right after you start you are not thinking of cruelty and suffering, and very soon after that you have other things that are nothing like that walking in the same door. If it was possible to use terms like right and wrong, fair and unfair, hurtful or helpful, you could, and talking human rights is prima facie evidence that a bait and switch is going on, fooling yourself first and worst – like Andrew thinking of an apology that should be “interpreted” as a disconnect as any kind of apology at all; that way reconciliation most definitely does not lie.

  92. Ian Gould
    February 7th, 2008 at 23:19 | #92

    I note that Observa, is still apparently unable to answer two simple questions:

    1. If as you claim the children were removed solely to protect them, why is it only mixed-race children were removed?

    2. Is it just Aborigines who report having been sexually and physically abused in foster care who you think are either liars or deluded?

  93. Ian Gould
    February 7th, 2008 at 23:23 | #93

    MKichael: BS. Then who were they taken away from???

    Well obviously the murderous brutes had just been too drunk and/or feckless to execute their murderous designs in the 5 or 10 or more yeras in which the defenceless mixed race children were exposed to the full terror to of their brutish fury.

    That’s obviously why most of the “removed” children made repeated efforts to contact their so-called “families” as soon as they were allowed to do so.

  94. Ian Gould
    February 7th, 2008 at 23:26 | #94

    “Aboriginal culture was doomed to fail in the long term. Perhaps that’s sad, perhaps that just global progress. ”

    Go tell Charles Pearson or Mick Dodson that.

  95. Andrew
    February 8th, 2008 at 09:46 | #95

    Ian – the last time I looked, Charles Pearson and Mick Dodson weren’t walkabout in the outback eating roast goanna on a stake.

  96. wizofaus
    February 8th, 2008 at 09:53 | #96

    Western civilisation is doomed to fail in the long term too. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight to preserve it while we can.

  97. Andrew
    February 8th, 2008 at 10:30 | #97

    Western civilisation doomed to fail? What – are we going to be colonised by little green men from an advanced civilisation?

    Western civilisation will continue to evolve – and will probably look very different in a 1000 years, or maybe even 100, but it’s hardly doomed to fail.

  98. Chui Tey
    February 8th, 2008 at 10:32 | #98

    A old man who was taken told me about the beltings he received where he was held at an institution. Later, how his own people wouldn’t accept him, and how he’d pretend to be Greek, or Italian to the Australians. Bad as it was in those days to be a wog, it was still better than being half aboriginal.

    He’s a really cool, quick witted guy.

    The damage caused by his removal was real though. He told me how he had to check himself into mental institutions a couple of times when depression hit.

    He suffered racism from both sides – the Government, and that from his own people. I wouldn’t pin all his troubles on the Australian government alone, but it certainly has a case for apologizing for triggering off this chain of events.

    If the then government was truly keen on improving the Aborigines’ lot, it would have taken a lot more care, and applied the Golden Rule and give them a voice instead of just listening to the pastoralists.

  99. gerard
    February 8th, 2008 at 15:40 | #99

    I don’t think the apology is coming from an abstract ‘us’. It’s coming from the Australian Government, which is a concrete institution that has existed continuously before during and since the time in question. Since the Liberals have been successfully wedged (suck it up mateys!) into supporting the apology, it’s actually issuing from the whole Parliament and not just the Government. And it’s not being issued to an abstract ‘them’ either, but to the actually existing individuals who were on the receiving end of the policy. They know who they are.

  100. wizofaus
    February 8th, 2008 at 17:36 | #100

    Andrew, what possible historical basis could you have for suggesting Western Civilisation isn’t likely to fail? I personally suspect it will survive at least another hundred years or so, but after that it’s anybody’s guess.

    If nothing else, most large mammalian species survive for a million or two years at most.

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