Sorry Day: an operation to remove Australia’s white guilt

kevin rudd apology white guilt national sorry day

Yesterday (13 Feb) was the 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to victims of the Stolen Generations.

What purpose did this apology serve to Indigenous people? On the 13th of February 2008 there was genuine hope among many Indigenous people. Something so simple, an apology was finally going to be made after years of refusals from the previous Howard government. Perhaps it was this refusal that made the thought of an apology seem so sweet.

Soon after the apology, a sense of despair started to emerge. Statistics revealed that Aboriginal children are being taken at an even greater rate than during the peak of the stolen generations. We began to hear white Australians using the apology to silence all Indigenous related discussions with, “We’ve said sorry, it’s time to move on”. Even if the topic is unrelated to the stolen generations, the apology continues to be misused to shed the white guilt from dispossession, the frontier wars, the ongoing exploitation of our lands and any talks of a treaty.

Strangely, 10 years prior to Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology, Sorry Day was introduced to the Australian calendar. The 26th of May 1998 was the first anniversary since the Bringing them home report was presented to Parliament. The report report implicated the Australian government in an act of Genocide. But during this period from 1998 to 2008, Australia had a national Sorry Day under a government that refused to say sorry.

Since the Kevin Rudd apology, we now have two Sorry Day’s: Feb 13th & May 26th.

At present, both of these days are marked on the National calendar but neither date is an actual public holiday. Until this changes, Feb 13th and May 26th will continue to be token dates that only serves to benefit the government and these token dates will continue to be misunderstood and misused by the wider Australian public.

A true national sorry day should be like ANZAC Day where the nation stops to show respect, learn and understand Australia’s true history. At present, these token dates only serve the purpose of removing Australia’s white guilt when it should be about admitting it. The day could also incorporate the frontier wars and the massacres that occurred on this land since 1788 which many Australians still know very little about.

We can’t continue with the constant, “You have your Sorry Day, What more do you want”?We want understanding and respect. How can you claim that the apology was a sign of respect when there is still so little understanding towards Indigenous people? The same government that is proud of their token sorry days refuse to acknowledge how disrespectful it is to celebrate Australia Day on January 26th.

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