CANBERRA, Australia - Australia will issue its first formal apology to its indigenous people next month, the government announced Wednesday, a milestone that could ease tensions with a minority whose mixed-blood children were once taken away on the premise that their race was doomed.
The Feb. 13 apology to the so-called "stolen generations" of Aborigines will be the first item of business for the new Parliament, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose Labor Party won November elections, had promised to push for an apology, an issue that has divided Australians for a decade,
"The apology will be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people," Macklin said in a statement.
Rudd has refused demands from some Aboriginal leaders to pay compensation for the suffering of broken families. Activist Michael Mansell, who is legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, has urged the government to set up an $882 million compensation fund.
Macklin did not mention compensation Wednesday. But she said she sought broad input on the wording of the apology, which she hoped would signal the beginning of a new relationship between Australia and its original inhabitants, who number about 450,000 among a population of 21 million. Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate....read more here
Note that while the current Prime Minister does not wish to "attribute guilt" to the "current generation of Australian people", focusing instead on "mistakes of the past" (policies are deliberate, they are not "mistakes"), the article itself notes the following about the present:
- "Aborigines are the poorest ethnic group in Australia and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate"--in the present;
- "the 17-year life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians"--in the present;
- "From 1910 until the 1970s, around 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and saving the children was a humane alternative".
It is likely that even with this superificial apology the attempt is to evade any obligation to make compensation for what, by international legal standards, where pre-meditated and planned policies of genocide.