The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

The dogs bark and the caravan moves on

Tandberg - The Age

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s eloquent and moving apology to the Stolen Generations marks a momentous day in Australian history. It was received with overwhelming consensus by the Australian people, drawing a line in the sand after 11 years of stubborn refusal by the Howard government. At Parliament House and around the country were many moving and emotional scenes of relief and gratitude that the moment dreamed of by so many had finally arrived. Kevin Rudd established himself as one who is prepared to show national leadership and extend the hand of bipartisan cooperation.

The only sour note was Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson’s inappropriate litany of sexual abuse offered as some kind of justification for Howard’s ill-considered Intervention, and the intemperate tantrums of some parliamentary hard-liners. Nelson’s speech started out well enough but became confused as he rambled on about fallen diggers , moral high ground and good intentions, presumably playing to the dissident among his own party, and ended up saying words to the effect that we are sorry that some bad things unintentionally happened, but we’re not sorry we did it.

In the blogosphere the usual suspects were yapping and complaining about the indignity and futility of it all, how it was all a sop to the bleeding heart lefty elites. After all, the Stolen Generations is just a myth. By today, the standard no-sorry narrative had become that Sorry will change nothing. They are wrong – if nothing else, the apology has pleased the vast majority of Indigenous Australians who have been calling for this day for more than decade for white Australia to recognise the pain and suffering they have endured. One obstacle has been removed on the path toward a meaningful reconciliation. Anyone with a shred of compassion could not help but be moved by the emotional outpouring witnessed at yesterday’s ceremony.

I’ve seen Archie Roach perform a number of times over the years – most recently at a local event late last year. There was hardly a dry eye in the white audience. Archie’s powerful and heartfelt singing conveys something of the depth of pain the stolen generations have suffered and the profound attachment Indigenous people have for the land, their families and people – something so deeply cultural that the rest of us can at best hope to appreciate and respect it, let alone fully understand.

In Federation Square, singer-songwriter Archie Roach, one of the best-known members of the stolen generations, dedicated his performance to the mother he was separated from, and to his own children. “This brings a new start in life for us, the way it should have been,” he said.

It was a joyous and unique day in Australian history, marking the beginning of a new era in which ordinary Australians no longer have to feel the shame for our government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the harm we have inflicted on successive generations of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The dogs may bark – the stone-hearted, the curmudgeonly misanthropes who believe only in wealth and personal vanity – but the caravan is well and truly moving on.

But where was John Howard? Watching the proceedings from the comfort of Wollenscroft, wistfully regretting that he didn’t do what Rudd did yesterday? A man so concerned with his legacy can now add the epithet – the man who couldn’t say sorry.

Filed under: Australian values, Big Picture, History, Indigenous, Politics

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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