A small gesture of great worth

Big dates this week:
27 May: 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
90.77% of the votes were cast in favour of including aboriginal Australians in the census. That means that on Saturday it will only be fifty years that aboriginal Australians (who’d been here for > 40 000 years) have been counted as Australians.

26 May: Sorry Day.
This is an important one. On this day we remember and commemorate the mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians. One the 26th May 1997 the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in government. This report officially described and recorded facts of the Stolen Generation. Where aboriginal children were taken from their families by white governments, and placed in orphanages (to later work in domestic slavery), or with white families.

We need to remember these stories because aboriginal kids are still being removed from aboriginal families by white governments.

I always feel that Sorry Day is an important one for me, as a white Australian. I wasn’t born here, and I became a citizen in the 90s. I chose to become Australian. Sorry Day gives me a chance to properly express my sadness and just how sorry I am about Australia’s history. I like the gesture of an apology. You don’t have to take responsibility for past actions (though some of us should). You just say to someone, “I care about your people and our history. And I want to tell you I regret the past, and I want to do better, now.”

One of my favourite symbols is the handful of dirt Whitlam gave Lingiari in 1966. And Paul Kelly’s song From Little Things always make me tear up:

There’s something about a small gesture that gives someone something of great worth. That’s why I like Sorry Day. You can give someone an apology, and they don’t owe you anything in return, you just let them know. You speak up, tell people where you stand.

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