Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Sorry Debate

For the aboriginal children that were forcibly removed from their homes by government authorities, now known as "the stolen generation", there was a historic apology in Parliament by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

I have no qualms with the apology made by the Prime Minister. Indeed the words of the speech are admirable, emotional and appropriate.
The apology could only be made by a politician on behalf of past policies of politicians. That is appropriate.
On the other hand, I have nothing to be sorry about. Personally I had no part in the actions that caused anguish and suffering to individuals. I think many other Australians feel this sentiment and therefore feel ambivalent as to the need for an apology to the aboriginal community.

There is also the issue of mixed feelings regarding the reasons behind the forced removal of children from their homes.
On the one hand we are led to think that the reasons for these actions are irrelevant because what is important is the actual suffering and heartbreak inflicted on those unfortunate enough to be embroiled in this process. In this regard an apology is appropriate.
On the other hand, to raise the issue of motivation underlying the forced removal of these children as an attempt at racial cleansing, as an attempt to wipe out the aboriginal race is having your cake and eating it.That is because this implication is debatable in itself. And as we have been told, whether the actions were well intentioned or not doesn't matter. So, are the reasons are relevant or not? You can't have it both ways.
We can condemn the attitudes and values of those individuals that held these opinions but it isn't appropriate to make an apology for their actions.
The process of removal of children was government sanctioned and legislated. That is it.

Further, the apology itself now known as "SORRY" might be a psychological benefit to all aboriginals and possibly spiritually uplifting action. But without monetary compensation it does fall short and appears as a cynical political exercise as empty as an election promise.

I believe, although have no proof, that it was this aspect of the SORRY that prevented the former Prime Minister of Australia from making the apology.

One day after the historic SORRY speech, aboriginal spokesman Pat Dodson is talking about monetary compensation. Is anybody surprised?
My question is this, how much money is enough? Can we put a price on what constitutes emotional suffering?
Does this open the floodgates for others to claim monetary compensation for claims against the government for perceived emotional suffering caused by government actions that have interfered in the lives of individuals? You only have to look at the many cases of inaction or over enthusiasm by the welfare department regarding abused children to see that there is a huge area of opportunity to sue the government for emotional suffering.

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