Sorry Day – what’s next – Forgiveness?

by on 6 May, 2013

Jack Wilkie-Jans

Indigenous  artist  from the North Jack Wilkie-Jans suggests that saying sorry is a two-way street that might be used for better effect. GC.Ed.@L.

Sorry Day commemorates when the then Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, made a historic and highly symbolic apology on behalf of previous Governments for the acts committed during the White Australia Policy unto First Australians. This day was welcomed by survivors and descendants of the Stolen Generation and academics, reconciliation advocates and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the globe. 

Sorry Day and the Apology has received equal amount of criticism and speculation as well as adoration. Many people saw it as a stepping stone towards financial compensation and of course resulting court cases. The move has been criticised for being overly populist, symbolic and seen as a ruse to lesser the unpopularity of the Northern Territory Intervention and other such prohibition championed by the Australian Labor Party, and of course, for being mere words.

Sorry Day should be appreciated for what it stood for at the time, without wanting or to be misused as leverage, and as a gesture which needed to occur to begin the healing process and move towards truer reconciliation; even the Chancellor of Germany made such a historic gesture towards the Jewish people in Israel by issuing an apology for the Holocaust in World War Two. It's about tying up loose ends and understanding that such a move signifies acknowledgement for horrors perpetrated by Governments.

In order to achieve true, wholesome and empowering reconciliation, we need to suffer the pain from an action which we as a People have done, we need appreciation of what has occurred and an apology, however there is one more step, we need to close the circle of blame & sympathy and forgive build up our own capacity as a People to become independent in a great many respects. Freedom from blame and by doing so releasing guilt means all Australians can move forward being truly equal.

I am calling for a national day of Forgiveness by Aboriginal people as a logical next step in order to achieve true reconciliation. First Australians have never been in such a place of real power, which is the power to forgive and by doing so, can dictate the future course of our positive future generations' attitudes and understanding of the past.

When an apology has been issued and accepted, such as the Kevin Rudd one, it is appropriate to issue forgiveness in return. Aboriginal culture has always been one of harmony with others and with land, so I can see this as being something our ancestors would be proud of. Forgiveness they say, is where real power lies, and we owe it to our future generations to even the score and lift the blame in order for this reconciliation, which countless Aboriginal Rights activists have been working towards for decades and which NAIDOC Day is said to encourage, to come about out of mutual respect.

Jack is an Aboriginal Affairs Advocate, Artist and Traditional Owner from Far North Queensland with British, Danish and Aboriginal Australian heritage.

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