We apologised for the wrong thing

Today our Prime Minister made an important step in Australian history, by apologising to indigenous Australians for past injustices. However, I think the focus on the so-called Stolen Generation was wrong.

It is true that successive Australian governments did take indigenous children from their parents, that they did so in large numbers, and that this did cause harm. And we should be sorry for it.

However, it is important, I feel, that we acknowledge the intent of this was never to harm indigenous people. It was to enforce child-protection laws, which mandated that no child, regardless of racial background, should be forced to live in substandard conditions. These conditions were rife in indigenous communities at the time, and they still are – witness the case of the teenage girl gang-raped at the age of 7; the only reason this even made the news is because the prosecutor decided to let the perpetrators go.

If non-indigenous children were treated in such fashion, the parents would certainly lose their children. It happens all the time – that’s why we have organisations such as the Department of Child Safety. For us to tolerate in indigenous communities what we would not tolerate in mainstream society is not “respect for their culture” – it’s a revolting acknowledgement that indigenous Australians are not ready to partake in mainstream society.

It is wrong that our governments had to take the children away. It is vastly more wrong that we permitted, and continue to permit, these conditions. Rampant abuse of children has created and perpetuates a cycle of dependence in indigenous communities, and this cycle must be broken somehow. It is our failure to do this, or even to accept a need to do this, that we should apologise for. It is the failure of indigenous Australians to break out of this cycle by themselves that makes the apology somewhat pointless.

(All that said, I’m not in favour of the so-called intervention policies of the last days of the Howard government. We do not need to create special laws to deal with the situation; we need to enforce the ones we have, along with creative programs to achieve results by building communities up instead of tearing them apart)

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 22 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

One thought on “We apologised for the wrong thing”

  1. Hi Robert,
    I have read your article “UsingCruiseControlWithCplusPlus”, since I am new to CruiseControl, it’s a little bit difficult for me to understand and configure the CruiseControl.
    Is there any more information that can help me to configure CruiseControl to support C++? If there was, It would be nice that you can send it to me.
    My email address is : leezjs[at]gmail.com.

    Thanks very much.

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