I rise to speak on National Sorry Day. This is the 17th National Sorry Day, and I am sad that, although some progress has been made on Indigenous issues since the first sorry day, the story is still not good.
Since 1998 there have been good symbols and important symbolic actions taken, including Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations, but that was over eight years ago, and while symbols are important, real action is most important.
That is I am utterly appalled by the Abbott federal government using $90 million to try to close 150 remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia.
This is totally unacceptable. The first nations people have suffered not only from the overt wrongs of dispossession, disease and undeclared warfare over the last two centuries but also from meddling and quite often wrongheaded attempts to right these wrongs.
The Bringing Them Home report was stark about the intergenerational damage done to Indigenous people and Indigenous culture. No matter how well-intentioned some of these actions may have been, they were wrong.
We can look back today and say they were racist, but whether they were wrong or racist, one thing is for sure — that is, we did not involve Indigenous Australians in the decision-making about their welfare and their future.
That is why we need to start a conversation about self-determination. I hope today’s National Sorry Day can be marked not just by symbols but by serious intention to move towards constitutional recognition and self-determination.
After two centuries of white settlement, it is certainly overdue.