Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Scoop Column: Australia's Not Sorry

Simon Orme writes from Sydney

Australia's Not Sorry

The Roman Catholic church, New Zealand, the US, South Africa, Canada, and others, have all ‘fessed up to past wrongdoing. Australia’s PM Howard, however, has ruled out a previous Liberal party promise to deliver an apology to Aboriginal Australians during 2000.

It later turned out the voters are with him.

A recent poll reveals most Australians oppose an apology. They believe saying “sorry” is backward looking and will simply be used by aboriginal groups to extract compensation and additional rights from federal and state governments.

But Australia is going against a world-wide trend.

The click of the calendar over to 2000 is coinciding with decolonisation exercises around the world:

- The Vatican is apologizing for the Inquisition and other very bad things;

- South Africa had its truth and reconciliation commission;

- Clinton’s administration is looking at an apology to African Americans for slavery;

- the Canadians have basically added a third layer of government to an already complex federation – allowing limited self-government to Native American nations;

- Indonesia’s President visited East Timor and apologised for Indonesian atrocities;

- New Zealand’s Parliament has issued formal apologies, notably to Waikato-Tainui and Ngai Tahu; and

- New Caledonia, which in the late ‘80s was looking like becoming an Algeria in the south pacific, has followed through on the 1988 Matignon Accord process and its administration is there more by consent than force.

I’m sure the Finns have been extra nice to the Lapps, but we just haven’t heard about it.

Leaving aside Russia, Australia seems unique among colonised/colonising countries in that it has not undergone any sort of decolonisation process and doesn’t appear to have any intention of doing so.

The injustices aren’t all 200 years old either. The “stolen generation” affair - the forced adoption of aboriginal children - was pursued well into the 1960s.

Aboriginals continue to be marginalised in a way that can’t really be imagined in New Zealand. The total aboriginal population of Australia is of a similar size to Maori in NZ. -Yet in my nearly three years here I have never come across a single aboriginal person professionally or socially. Aboriginals are a people apart.

A Qantas ad around town at the moment has a photo of a cute Aboriginal girl. Unlike the cute Air NZ girl, who you could see down at the mall (though maybe not in a silk dress), the cute Aboriginal girl is a media construction.

There is just one inner-Sydney suburb that is still (sort of) affordable – Redfern. This is where most local Aboriginals live.

Australia got its first Aboriginal Federal MP only in July last year (for the Democrats in the equivalent of a list seat).

Significantly, the UN Secretary General has agreed to investigate whether state laws requiring compulsory imprisonment for minor offences are consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations under international law.

This follows the suicide of an aboriginal boy in the Northern Territory who was imprisoned for petty theft. As former PM Malcolm Fraser commented, this is akin to the eighteenth century’s transportation to Australia for the term of your natural life for stealing a loaf of bread.

There seem to be two explanations for Australia’s atavistic stance on decolonisation.

The first is that a lot of Australians are just plain racist. Unfortunately, this is pretty accurate. The generally held and quite often stated view is that Aborigines are inferior.

The evidence? Their inferior position in Australian society. Never mind this is circular.

The second, nicer, explanation is that fronting up to the past, in general, is unaustralian. (Yes, it is a word here.)

This is Robert Hughes’ theory in his book The Fatal Shore, to which he’s currently making a sequel. Hughes argues that for generations Australians averted their attention from the past because of a sense of deep shame toward the “convict stain”.

If this theory is right, then it might also apply to the reconciliation issue.

The idea would be “we don’t ask for, and wouldn’t want, a “sorry” for forced transportation and all its accompanying horrors, so why should we say “sorry” for invading Australia in 1788? Hey, we didn’t event want do it anyway.”

What this all adds up to is a distinct risk Australia’s lack of progress on decolonisation will be in the spotlight at the Sydney Olympics later this year.

At the very least, Australians should cringe inside when they inevitably wheel out Aboriginal iconography at high profile games events

© Copyright: Simon Orme 2000
Feedback to simonorme@hotmail.com

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Binoy Kampmark: Budget Cockups In The Time Of Coronavirus: Reporting Errors And Australia’s JobKeeper Scheme

Hell has, in its raging fires, ringside seats for those who like their spreadsheets. The seating, already peopled by those from human resources, white collar criminals and accountants, becomes toastier for those who make errors with those spreadsheets. ... More>>


The Dig - COVID-19: Just Recovery

The COVID-19 crisis is compelling us to kick-start investment in a regenerative and zero-carbon future. We were bold enough to act quickly to stop the virus - can we now chart a course for a just recovery? More>>

The Conversation: Are New Zealand's New COVID-19 Laws And Powers Really A Step Towards A Police State?

Reaction to the New Zealand government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown has ranged from high praise to criticism that its actions were illegal and its management chaotic. More>>


Keith Rankin: Universal Versus Targeted Assistance, A Muddled Dichotomy

The Commentariat There is a regular commentariat who appear on places such as 'The Panel' on Radio New Zealand (4pm on weekdays), and on panels on television shows such as Newshub Nation (TV3, weekends) and Q+A (TV1, Mondays). Generally, these panellists ... More>>

Jelena Gligorijevic: (Un)lawful Lockdown And Government Accountability

As the Government begins to ease the lockdown, serious questions remain about the lawfulness of these extraordinary measures. Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee has indicated it will issue summonses for the production of legal advice about the ... More>>


Caitlin Johnstone: Do You Consent To The New Cold War?

The world's worst Putin puppet is escalating tensions with Russia even further, with the Trump administration looking at withdrawal from more nuclear treaties in the near future. In addition to planning on withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty ... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Ethics (and Some Of The Economics) Of Lifting The Lockdown

As New Zealand passes the half-way mark towards moving out of Level Four lockdown, the trade-offs involved in life-after-lockdown are starting to come into view. All very well for National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith to claim that “The number one priority we have is to get out of the lockdown as soon as we can”…Yet as PM Jacinda Ardern pointed out a few days ago, any crude trade-off between public health and economic well-being would be a false choice... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Brutal Choices: Anders Tegnell And Sweden’s Herd Immunity Goal

If the title of epidemiological czar were to be created, its first occupant would have to be Sweden’s Anders Tegnell. He has held sway in the face of sceptics and concern that his “herd immunity” approach to COVID-19 is a dangerous, and breathtakingly ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Trans-Tasman Bubble, And The Future Of Airlines

As the epidemiologists keep on saying, a trans-Tasman bubble will require having in place beforehand a robust form of contact tracing, of tourists and locals alike - aided by some kind of phone app along the lines of Singapore’s TraceTogether ... More>>

 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog