Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 538 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
It was also good to see one of the indigenous officers who helps in our school system and who ran the opens team. In fact, he can really put a feather in his cap. I think he represented Australian schoolboys, and the team he played in beat probably one of the better teams that I ever coached - it included Michael O'Connor - in the grand final in the under-18s. I could not think of better people to look after those two teams of young ATSI kids who went to Sydney and did so well in the Lloyd McDermott Cup. That really did please me. It shows the advances that have been made in recent times. I had a good talk to a lot of the kids. I think there are some very good programs now, especially in the ACT. We are really putting into action a lot of programs that will greatly assist in the process of moving into the twenty-first century together as a community.
MR BERRY (11.22): I heard some radio commentary just recently, from an Aboriginal person, I think, that saying one is sorry need not be a personal thing. I think the commentator was trying to impress upon the nation's leaders that for them to say sorry on behalf of the Australian people need not involve their own personal feelings at all. It is hard to say how one could not have some personal feelings about this issue. I, for one, disagree with that view. I think it is a personal thing, but for a politician it is an issue on which leadership has to be shown.
I note that Mr Osborne mentioned the Prime Minister and his failure to say that he was sorry on behalf of the Australian Government. That, to me, is a matter of deep regret. It is easy to take a partisan line in relation to the Prime Minister's lack of response - and this applies to the leaders of Queensland and the Northern Territory as well - but I cannot, for the life of me, justify that, despite whatever extreme views they might have on the issue, they will not say sorry. It is a fairly simple process for me. Even if they do not believe in it themselves, it should be said on behalf of the people they represent. I think it is pretty important for them to say it, because the symbolism of the leaders of the States and Territories saying that they are sorry will be received with great significance by the Aboriginal people. That is something that I think many Australians might feel deeply ashamed about.
I go back to my earlier point. One cannot avoid feeling personally sorry as all of these events that we did not hear about in the past emerge. Each time that we express recognition of the past and the need for reconciliation, some other horrible event is reported to us. It seems to me that they are quite endless. I wonder whether in the future the list of these things will grow to outrageous proportions. It cannot be any more outrageous than it has been so far, but it seems that each day something is mentioned. It just gets worse. I also heard today a report about a meeting in the 1930s where some politicians and people in high places expressed the view that half-caste children should be taken from their parents and that eventually the Aboriginal race would die out. One thing that I am proud of is that the Aborigines are tough. They will fight on, and we will all come to understand how important it is for us to give them support for that fight when we say that we are sorry.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.27): Mr Speaker, sometimes the worst excesses of society are the result of what is perceived as personal high motivation. In rising to support this motion that this Assembly acknowledges and supports National Sorry Day as recommended by the Bringing them home report, I recall the discussions that I had with my family and friends as we sat around the dinner table.