Australia: ‘Sorry’ for the Indigenous

Article published on Feb. 12, 2008
Article published on Feb. 12, 2008
13 February. Big screens, daytrips to Canberra, and a historical ‘apology’ by the new Labor government, to the 13, 000 Indigenous children taken from their Aboriginal parents after British colonisation

Europe sits up to listen on 13 February when, four months into power, Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd ‘apologises’ on behalf of his government to past injustices suffered by his country’s 2% Aboriginal minority. His conservative predecessor John Howard refused to do so in eleven years at the helm.

Nearly 90% of Australians claim European ancestry. Over 40% (2 million) of Australia’s 4.5 million population born abroad are EU-babes. Almost half of the nearly one million Australians living and working abroad are in the EU, according to the delegate of the European commission in Australia and New Zealand.

Why sorry

‘It’s a sorry to the ‘Stolen Generations’ of mixed-race children forcibly removed from their parents,' explains Australian-born Charlie Haddad, 25, who studies in Berlin. 'It was part of a violent means of assimilation into Anglo-Saxon Australia between 1910 and 1970.’ Australian newssource AdelaideNow describes these as 'the actions of past generations of essentially Europeans.'

‘But many in Australia and overseas are still unaware that it was official policy of Australian governments to forcibly remove Indigenous children,’ adds Gill Watson, co-ordinator of the London-based European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights (ENIAR), which counts supporters in France, the Netherlands and Germany. ‘Indigenous children were even taken back to the UK where they still live today, some leading troubled lives with no sense of belonging; some may not know they are Indigenous Australian.’

‘Those Australians maintaining an anti-apologetic stance typically exclaim what should the apology cost?, maintaining the epistemological violence of silence,’ continues Haddad. ‘Denial may not disclaim the histories of those Indigenous people it seeks to announce. But an apology is in order - if for no other reason than to give voice, and make heard, the silenced histories of the Stolen Generations.’

Back in London, despite the ‘disappointment that Australia House has not organised a public event for all Australians living in London to join in the celebrations,’ Eniar set up their own big screens, to embrace the apology from European soil.

(Homepage: Katrina Mathieson/ eniar)