The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has made a moving and heartfelt apology to all those children who had been effectively deported, against their will, to Australia, and then brutalised whilst in the protection of the state.
His speech was gracious, caring and intelligent, as he spoke to the victims of this practice that only ended in the late 1960s.
What I found strange, and I hope others did, was the reminder this gave me of the other recent apology to the indigenous peoples of Australia for their victimisation, forced deportation and almost genocide during the creation of Australia.
I am a great fan of Australia, it is in many ways a much fairer and progressive society than our own, but the ‘whites only’ immigration policy that the country adopted until very recently entrenched a rather negative view of non-white settlers and aboriginal people.
When I went to Canberra, not that long ago, I went to the National Museum of Australia, which is the equivalent of the British Museum here.
There are lots of beautiful examples of aboriginal art and workmanship, but no reference to the massacres and civil upheaval that took place for the indigenous peoples in Australia. In many ways it was still a patrician view of aborigine culture in a white Australia. This, and other, history is an important aspect of Australia’s birth as a nation, one that I have a personal interest in!
Australia’s national anthem is a moving tribute to an aspirant nation, but it is important in all nations that ‘Advance Australia Fair!’ should have fairness for all.
I think Gordon Brown’s apology should be equally thoughtful, but aware that we have an awful lot more to apologise for, beyond the two issues mentioned here.