National Sorry Day 2018: Don't be sorry - DO sorry

We would all acknowledge that our memories are very powerful; incredibly, years after an event, we can be transported back in time to a location or occasion, complete with a full depth of emotion.

So it is for me.

I find myself transported back to 12 February, 2008, watching and listening to Kevin Rudd’s historic Apology Speech. Watching as a mother of three children, my vision was obscured by the tears that welled up in my eyes, as I observed the pain and grief shared by many Indigenous people.

It would be a further three years before the full impact of this day would descend upon me. This was the day I learned the disturbing truth about my Grandfather's story.   

It’s one thing to read about other people’s stories, but nothing quite prepares you when it becomes your story.

No longer an abstract subject, suddenly people have names, locations and connections. It becomes deeply personal. My heart breaks a little more when I think of my grandfather as a two-year-old, along with his four-year-old brother being ‘relocated’ over 700 km from country, for ‘a better’ life. What they, and so many others, experienced, must have been terrifying and again I think of my children being subject to such treatment.

National Sorry Day: Ten years on

Now, ten years on, we can see that our Aboriginal children are still being removed from their families, with further generations experiencing the pain and grief of separation.

We note the Human Rights Commission's statement: “despite closing the gap being a national bipartisan priority, it is clear that Australian governments at all levels are, in key respects, failing Australia’s First People".

In 1986, Pope John Paul ll visited Alice Springs, where he acknowledged the effects of colonisation and dispossession on Australia’s First People, stating, “what has been done cannot be undone” while imploring us all, “what can be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow”.

The title for this article comes from a banner I saw some time ago and which believe holds the key to our future. It is not enough to say 'sorry', we need show this by our actions as individuals, as Catholics and as a nation. Through our participation in the Eucharist, we are called to be Christ the Light of the World. For me, this call has led to entering the field of Indigenous Research through the intimately personal lens of autoethnography.

Worldwide Indigenous populations are the most researched yet ironically, they remain among the most impoverished, with poor health, education and employment outcomes. Not being content with the minimal improvements gained in the ‘problem-solution’ approach to Indigenous Research, I seek to challenge the status quo, from an insider perspective which carries the ability to empower and transform individuals and communities.

Watch Former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen generation:

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Jennifer Rumbel Image
Jennifer Rumbel

Jennifer Rumble is a member of the Pastoral Ministries - Aboriginal Catholic Ministry group.