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Sorry Day reflection

The National Apology to the Stolen Generations and the response to the Coronavirus inspired hope for a better future, but sadly the demand of Indigenous Australians for an effective say in Government policies to do with them is still unmet. Read ANDY HAMILTON SJ’s Sorry Day reflection

Sorry Day is worthy of acknowledgement, especially in this time of anxiety about COVID-19 and the economy. It is hard to think of any action taken by any Government this millennium that matches the Apology made by Mr Kevin Rudd for dignity and rightness. The Apology acknowledged wrongs, was accepted by members of the wronged party and led to a commitment to further reconciliation.

The Apology was also an event that was celebrated with great joy at the time. It brought together Australians with a sense of pride. That has also been true of the response to Coronavirus. People
accepted the hardships associated with isolation contented that it served the common good and saved lives. They were also proud of the health workers and others who put their health at risk through their
service.

Both the Apology and the response to the Coronavirus inspired hope for a better future. This is one in which Indigenous Australians would be respected as people with a unique place in the nation, the wrongs that they have systematically suffered would be set right,and one in which governance would serve the common good.

The tests of that are whether Indigenous Australians are respected, have a voice in matters that pertain to their welfare, whether their health, education and exposure to the justice system moving closer to their proportion in the community, and whether their own culture and the effects of misappropriation of their land are accepted and their people are respected.

By those standards the Apology now looks like a foothill of a mighty mountain range. More significant than the improvements in education is the rate of Indigenous incarceration, the surest test of
the institutional respect paid to cultural difference and of the seriousness of the commitment to reconciliation. The demand of Indigenous Australians for an effective say in government policies to
do with them is still unmet.

These failures suggest the dimensions of the challenges facing Australia in surmounting the challenges of Coronavirus to building a prosperous and just society. This is one in which the hopes inspired by the Apology and remembered on Sorry Day will be realised.