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As I write this, Australia’s parliament sits, and for the first time in 11 years, a leftist centralist Labor Party, sits on the Government benches. The is not only historic because Australia has shrugged off a Neo-con government which embarrassed us at home and overseas, but also after a long wait, the house will finally say sorry to Australia’s first people, and a practice that resulted in a group know as the "Stolen Generation".

... (The) term (is) used to describe the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, usually of mixed descent who were removed from their families by Australian government agencies and church missions, under various state acts of parliament, denying the rights of parents and making all Aboriginal children wards of the state, between approximately 1869 and (officially) 1969. The policy typically involved the removal of children into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions.Wikipedia

John Howard refused to use the word sorry, when pressure for a national apology after the publication in 1997 of the "Bringing Them Home - Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families". The report was a tearjerker for anyone who read it, and a genuine national outcry resulted in a call for the nation to stand togeather and say "sorry", inculding a march across the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

One of the first acts of the new Labor government was to make this happen, and hopefully end the use of the stolen generation as a political football for the culture wars of wedge politics by the previous conservative Government. As first mentioned by Little in this Diary on Dkos.

Here is the text that the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd read to the parliament in a live broadcast across Australia today.

"Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

That wasn't so hard, Mr Howard, why couldn't you do it?

Watch the statement and reaction at the ABC online website.

Originally posted to tunney on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 02:19 PM PST.

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