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
—Kevin Rudd, Australia Prime Minister, 13 February 2008
On a day marked with a white stone, Kevin Rudd, recently elected Australia PM, delivered the long-awaited apology due to the aborigenes for the atrocities committed since the colonization.
For all those who think that acknowledgements of past wrongs and apologies are useless and hinder the process of moving-on, I invite them to look into contemporary research on public acknowledgements and apologies and consider that it is in most cases an essential tool of transitional justice, as it can be seen as a moral duty and the least afflicted communities like aborigenes can expect from their former oppressors.
I won’t comment further on the Australian situation. I attach here some reflections that were part of a paper I delivered about public acknowledgements and apologies in Northern Ireland :
One of the main improvements brought by acknowledgement is the prevention of further violence. By acknowledging and sometimes apologising for wrong actions in the past, one commits herself not to repeat them and change her conduct. It is a Janus-faced process, looking critically backward at what has been done and forward to not replicating the same wrongs.
Acknowledgement is viewed here as a process about organisations and individuals taking responsibility for their actions during the conflict. Although it does not necessarily involve making an apology, it does imply recognition of the consequences that flow from choices consciously made. “It is about disclosing the acts and omissions and positions taken by organisations in relation to the conflict, accepting that alternative choices were available and taking responsibility for the ones that were made. It is about organisations owning and recognising their own history.”
From the point of view of a victim, acknowledgement is vital to come to terms with past hurts. The trauma a victim suffers is generally greater if it is denied by the ones responsible for the pain and hurt. In the context of a violent political struggle, victims are often voiceless or their sufferance is being used by political factions to vindicate their positions. They are the underdogs when confronting to the institutions, or the ones responsible for their affliction. They are merely seen as collateral damage, or necessary martyrs for a cause that overwhelms their particular story. The inability of having their story told or acknowledged is often a second blow to an already traumatic situation. Therefore, acknowledgement would allow victims to feel there is a greater sense of recognition and that there is hope for a future free of conflict.
I know the « no-apology for past crimes » is a view widely held in France and elsewhere, especially in regard to colonial atrocities, which are hardly taught in schools and well known from the public. This position, firmly emboddied by French chief of state, is a blatant slur on people who already suffered from violent forms of oppression and still experience the painful legacy of colonization. It is not being weak that to admit past misdeeds, my experience in Northern Ireland tells me that it is the first and unavoidable step of a peaceful and shared future.
Some text here : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7242057.stm
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Part 3 :