Page 229 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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There is also one very important element to saying sorry. Apologising for past wrongs acknowledges unconditionally that white Australia has meted out a great injustice to our Indigenous people, particularly those of the stolen generation. I cannot for one moment imagine what it must feel like to be taken from your family at a young age; nor can I imagine the anguish of a parent having their children taken away from them. In offering an apology, we also ask Indigenous Australians for forgiveness. As Noel Pearson says:

Too many will be condemned to harbour a sense of injustice for the rest of their lives. Far from moving on, these people—whose lives have been much consumed by this issue—will die with a sense of unresolved justice.

I pray that this will no longer be the case for many. May yesterday’s apology, and today’s reaffirmation, allow members of the stolen generation to be freed and to move on. Whether to forgive or not is a matter for Indigenous people corporately and individually. It is not something which can be demanded. We cannot say to the person removed from their parents at the age of three that they must forgive. However, where forgiveness is freely granted, it will allow true reconciliation to occur.

It is my heartfelt wish to see our Indigenous people truly free of the burden of the past. That is why saying sorry is the right thing to do. I long to see the children on the streets of Alice Springs in school and their fathers in meaningful employment. I long to see organisations like Mount Theo, in the outback of Alice Springs, and FORWARD in Darwin fully funded and powering on in their groundbreaking work for Indigenous people. I long to see the drug and alcohol rehabilitation services of Goori House in Cleveland, Brisbane continue to achieve their 60 per cent outcomes in drug and alcohol treatment for Indigenous men. I want to see the lot of our local Indigenous community in the ACT continue to improve. But while I am no doubt an optimist, I am also a realist. I know all too well that more needs to be done and we must, as elected representatives, take today’s apology and turn it into substantive outcomes for our Indigenous people.

In conclusion, this is a momentous occasion. We must, however, now build on it. It is true that for all members of the human family there is no substitute for home and family. We removed both home and family from those of the stolen generation. It is therefore timely, following yesterday’s national apology, that we reaffirm our apology as an Assembly and as a community. I will finish with these simple words: on behalf of the Liberal Party in Canberra, I say sorry. I ask for forgiveness and I pray for healing and true reconciliation for our nation.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (10.51): Mr Speaker, I seek the House’s indulgence to speak now because I have to attend an urgent medical appointment. I rise today to add my voice to those here today in offering a reaffirmed apology to the Ngunnawal people and, indeed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia. I acknowledge that Indigenous Australians have been subject to distress and pain over previous generations and that this must not occur again. I also stand here today to support the Prime Minister’s apology and “sorry” statement in its entirety.

Yesterday’s apology was a momentous occasion. It was symbolic and, even more importantly, deeply spiritual. While some commentators will and have said in recent

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