Monday 11 February 2008
Commission Sees Stolen Generations Apology as First Step
Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has joined the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and other Church bodies in warmly welcoming the Federal Government’s decision to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.
However, the Commission stressed that the apology needs to be followed up with implementation of the many recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report on which there has been no Government action.
The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that no-one should seek to downplay or dismiss either the importance of the apology or the need for concrete action to rectify the problems caused by the practice of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families.
“Both the formal apology and the implementation of the actions identified by the Bringing Them Home Report are immensely important to Aboriginal people,” Mr Arndt said.
“We need both if there is to be any real prospects for bringing about genuine and lasting reconciliation in our land,” he added.
“What the Church teaches about personal wrongdoing needs to be applied to wrongdoing at the social level,” he said.
“When we do the wrong thing, the Church teaches us that, in order to be reconciled with our brother or sister and with God, we need to acknowledge the wrongdoing, say sorry, make reparations where possible and promise not to do the same thing again,” he said.
“If we are to be reconciled as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living together in this country, our political representatives need to acknowledge that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their families, to say sorry, to make reparations to those affected by this harmful practice, and to commit to behaving differently in the future,” he said.
“Saying sorry is essential, but so much more needs to be done,” he said.
“Bringing Them Home recommended that governments ensure that adequate education about the Stolen Generations is offered in schools and communities, as well as for lawyers and judges, police officers, health professionals and others who work with Indigenous people,” he said.
“A recent survey which indicated that over a third of Australians do not believe an apology is needed shows the great need for more education about this sorry aspect of our national history,” he said.
“The Bringing Them Home Report also made clear recommendations about reparations and compensation,” he said.
“It is very disappointing that the Federal Government has already ruled out the notion of compensation,” he said.
“The provision of compensation to members of the Stolen Generations by the Tasmanian Government has shown the way in this matter and we urge the Prime Minister and his Government to reconsider their position,” he said.
Mr Arndt said that members of the Commission would join with members of its Indigenous Advisory Group and the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team to watch the apology and to celebrate this significant moment in Australian history.
For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.
NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.