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National Sorry Day – are we truly sorry?


Thursday 26th May 2011 is National Sorry Day.

Since 1998, this is the day of the year set aside for all Australians to collectively express our regret over the historical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This date was chosen in commemoration of the Bringing Them Home Report being handed to the Federal Government on 26th May 1997.

I was recently browsing through YouTube to listen to some music video clips of some of my favourite singers.  One of these singers happened to be a Torres Strait Islander woman – a quite famous, widely acclaimed artist whose music, I think, is pretty cool.

I then did something which I don’t often do – I read some of the comments made by people who elected to review her music.   For some reason, I tend to not be all that interested in what other people think about an artist’s music.  I’m usually happy enough to just appreciate it for myself rather than be concerned about other people’s tastes or preferences – if I like it, I’m not really all that concerned about whether anyone else likes it or not. On this day though, when I read the comments a number of people had made about this particular artist’s music, I became incredibly concerned about what other people were thinking and about what they liked or didn’t liked.

The following are extracts of some of the comments I read –

(Comment) “She’s my cuz! So proud of her!”

(Comment in response) “Yeah OK, whatever, every Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander thinks she is their cousin, sister, aunt or mother.  Unless you’re blood-related, there is NOTHING!”

(Comment) “Go to school mate… Aboriginals are primitive…”

(Comment in response) “You are scum mate. I’m Aboriginal and proud of it. I’m a scholar, I have a diploma in Community Services and a Bachelor of Arts and now studying my Masters.  I feed off your hate.  It makes me stronger and more willing to be the best I can be…”

(Comment) “What race is she?  Reasonable to assume that she is a coon but she doesn’t really look like that.”

(Comment – referring to the artist) “Fuck off whore.”

I often hear non-Indigenous Australians stating a case that we should cease being “sorry” for the injustices meted out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples decades ago, that it’s time to move on and we should stop being held responsible for the “sins of our forefathers”, that this belongs to the past and not the present, we have no reason to continue being “sorry”.

I am a white man – a non-Indigenous Australian.  As a white man and a non-Indigenous Australian, I read those comments on YouTube and I was filled with shame and sorrow.

I’m not sorry only about what has happened in the past – I continue to be sorry for what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to endure today, as evidenced by the vile, racist and ignorant comments that some Australians apparently have no qualms about entering into a public comment thread such as that provided by You Tube!

After sharing the comments I read with Fiona McColl from PeakCare, Fiona reminisced about a favourite saying her mother often proclaimed – being truly sorry means promising to not do it again.

On this National Sorry Day, can we, as Australians yet claim that we are truly sorry – bearing in mind the definition of being sorry recommended by Fiona’s mother?  Can we say, as a nation claim that we are truly sorry when it is possible to still read the racist diatribes of fellow Australians on YouTube and not speak out against that?

At PeakCare Queensland, we often receive positive verbal and email feedback and comments made by people who read our blog posts, but for some reason, these people seem reluctant to enter their comments into the blog.

To all of you who read this post, here is a challenge for you.

I am a white man – a non-Indigenous Australian – and on Sorry Day 2011, I am inviting you to join me in saying to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that we are sorry.  We are sorry for the injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in the past and we continue to be sorry for the injustices you continue to experience today.

Make use of this blog post to enter your thoughts about this matter – add your voice to my expression of sincere sorrow.

Lindsay Wegener – Executive Director – Peak Care

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43 Comments Post a comment
  1. Absolutely I am sorry .. not only for injustices and harms done in the past, but I am also sorry for the continuation of harm and injustice right now, today. In particular, I am sorry for our collective resistance to addressing the systemic racism that is deeply embedded into the child protection system which results into the continued over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within that system.

    Fiona McColl – Training and Development Manager

    May 25, 2011
  2. Lily #

    Whilst we’re talking of mother’s like Fionas I’m reminded of Forest Gumps mama. If life is like a box of chocolates and you don’t know what you’re gonna get then in what you’ve just described there is a whole lot of tasteless chocolates in the box of people responding to your artist. Ugly, flavourless bigotry. Free of flavour.

    May 25, 2011
  3. Lorraine #

    Just like so many apologies to Indigenous people worldwide, ours was also our nation’s non-apology apology! It is so apt that you mention that an apology means we will not do it again. We have a long way to go before we can give a real apology that holds up its end of the bargain to never go where we have gone before in our lengths of control and perpetration over our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I look forward to our real and enduring apology.

    May 25, 2011
  4. Paul Testro #

    Thanks Lindsay, it is a reminder that we have a long way to go. It is important that we all take responsibility for acknowledging and addressing the issues that result in severe social and economic disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait children, families and communities in whatever ways we can. One way is to join and support Combined Voices – http://www.combinedvoices.org.au/ – which strives to address the poor outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in terms of their safety, education and health.

    May 27, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Paul, I’m glad you have made the connection with the Combined Voices Campaign – it’s an important initiative that allows individuals and organisations working within our sector to stand up and take some action.

      May 29, 2011
  5. Julie #

    Thanks Lindsay – it is good to draw attention to this issue as most Australians have no idea and it is this ignorance that allows those stupid racists to think it is okay to say those things…or at least one of the reasons. I have been looking at the latest child protection data and if over-representation continues at the current rate, it will reach 50% by 2015. That is, at the current rate one in two children in the child protection system will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – and they are only 6% of the child population. Equally concerning is the decline in adherence to the Child Placement Principle. There are currently over 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in non-indigenous placements and this figure is also expanding quickly. How sorry are we really?

    May 29, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Hi Julie. You’re right – the data continues to be incredibly alarming. It should be of enormous concern to everyone involved in providing child protection services as well as the general public.

      May 30, 2011
  6. Julie Clark #

    I am sorry, about what has happened in the past and clearly continues in other forms. I am sorry that Indigenous people have so many barbs to navigate in their lives that others do not care to know about or understand ……but also that we are unable or unwilling to challenge the views of others effectively when we hear comments that need challenging. I am sorry about the apathy and widespread acceptance of racism that silence maintains.

    Unless we actively seek to change our behaviour and become aware of our attitudes and challenge the views we think are ill-informed -even though we might feel awkward, embarrassed or weird doing so- we are condoning treatment of others that is unfair…..we claim to value fairness as Australians….

    May 30, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Hi Julie – good to see academics adding their voice to these concerns.

      May 30, 2011
  7. Vanessa Walker #

    I am a white woman – non-indigenous Australia. I also happen to be a Social Worker who, as a result of working in child protection, has witnessed the generational impact of the historical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I am touched by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history personally through my relationship with my beautiful sister in-law, her family and my nieces who are Aboriginal and going through the long and laborious process of land title.

    I continue to be appalled and disappointed by the overt racism that is evident in this country. I do not understand this form of racism and the only way that I can exist in a world that it exists is to believe that it comes from fear and ignorance. As such, it makes it important to ensure that we speak out against racist comments and that we advocate that the true Australia history is taught in schools etc.

    I have to say that I am even more frightened of how covert racism is within our very social structures and policies. This is why we must all take responsibility to be aware of this form of racism, to ensure that as practitioners we take responsibility for naming this form of bigotry and take action against it!

    In terms of debates about saying ‘sorry’ and whether people should say sorry for things that they were ‘not responsible for’ or ‘did not do’…. I suggest that people look up the definition of sorry, which states:

    1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one’s friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
    2. regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.
    3. sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?

    You do not have to be the person that undertook the actions to be sorry! I believe that the historical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is deplorable and tragic. I am grieved and sorrowful that so many innocent people were murdered, tortured and disconnected from their family and culture. I am ‘sorry’ and I like to think that I make it my responsibility to ensure that as a privileged white women, as a social worker, as a mother, aunty sister-in-law and human being, that I do not participate or sit silently in the continuation of this history!

    My journey towards being ‘culturally competent’ or having ‘cultural awareness’ continues and I still have so much to learn, but one thing that I am certain of is that hate breeds hate and silence perpetuates racism (overt and covert).

    May 30, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Hi Vanessa. Your comments are very moving and I’m sure that they will be appreciated by many people. I think that you’re right in describing the process of obtaining “cultural awareness” as a journey. I also think that the journey towards becoming “culturally aware” is not simply about obtaining some semblance of knowledge about the cultural beliefs and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Very importantly, as you indicated, it is about gaining an appreciation of our own “whiteness” – only then can we commence to appreciate the impact we make as members of the dominant white culture on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

      May 30, 2011
    • Karen Dawson-Sinclair #

      The raw feelings that are felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across this state are so different from story to story, and who is listening….. Truly listening……We sit and listen to our Elders tell the stories of the old days under the old policies of the Government of the day. But we are heading straight back there…… Sorry day was born out of the Bringing them home report, but today in child protection system we are seeing the Lost Generation our children are losing who they are and where they come from and who their belong too due to a system that keeps failing them and their needs to be linked to culture…… Cultural Awareness this does my head in just because someone has done a half day course as Vanessa said it is an ongoing journey….. Oh the child protection system and the wonderful job of the Queensland Government(not) Lets just look at the Queensland Indigenous Child Protection Reform and the Government’s wonderful efforts to address the over representation of our children to cut the sector at it knees. How is this ever going to be any different for our children, Practice within the Government NEEDS to change the section of the Child Protection Act 1999 that are in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children young people and their families, but when it suits the practice it all goes by the wayside…… who is looking for kinship options for our little people more then once….. Who is working with our families in strength base approach and encouraging our families to be empowered and ensuring that cultural consideration is given at a real grass roots level….. Please tell me who……and then we can start to talk about being Sorry.
      Now SORRY for our “LOST GENERATION” which are the current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children placed in mainstream placements without cultural case plans, Educational Support Plans, Health Passports and basic linkages and connection to their family, extended family and their community.
      If we don’t all work together in the best interest of our children and truly listen we are not going to have any kinship options to place our children in due to the negative impact of the of the Child Protection System

      May 31, 2011
      • Lindsay Wegener #

        I sincerely hope that your comments are “truly listened to” by everyone that reads them Karen. I don’t know what other people think but I tend to agree with you and Vanessa about “cultural awareness” being an “ongoing journey”. I can’t get my head around the idea that any person or organisation can ever claim to be fully “culturally aware” or “culturally competent”. It seems to me that to make this claim is insulting to people from Aboriginal nations and to Torres Strait Islanders. It’s like pretending that we can measure something like “compassion” or “kindness” – those are things that can’t be measured as a “finite commodity”. I think that the key challenge that your comments have posed to everyone is that if we are ever going to “get this right”, both governments and non-government organisations have got to “truly listen” – seems like the essence of a respectful relationship to me.

        May 31, 2011
  8. Matt #

    I think your wrote a terrific blog, Lindsay. I am sorry that I am not doing more to try and redress the way Aborignial and Torres Strait Islander people are treated in Australia. I feel deeply ashamed that I live in a country that continually treats Indigenous people as second. I am sorry. Thanks for the link Paul. I will check it out.

    May 30, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Matt, when you check out the link that Paul provided, you should also have a close look at “Together Keeping Our Children Safe and Well – our plan for promoting the safety and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people and reducing their over-representation within Queensland’s child protection system”. This is a 5-year plan developed by a Task Force commissioned by Minister Phil Reeves. You should also have a look at the 12-month Implementation Plan that was developed by the Department of Communities in association with the peak bodies. This 12-month plan was informed by the 5-year plan and, in accordance with a committment made by the Department of Communities,is to be reviewed and updated annually. Everyone working within both the Department of Communities as well as the non-Government sector should be making a very active committment to playing their part in bringing abut the goals of these plans.

      May 30, 2011
  9. Stevie #

    I am a white,non-indigenous man, of whom has only been on this truely special land for a short time. I thank the traditional owners of the lands for their unique ‘tending’ – tending that has resulted in all of us today being surronded by such wonderous sights, sounds and stories. Unfortunately, all that has happened in more recent history is that the landscape (structurally, socially & morally) has been bastardized by ignorant intruders from the so called ‘developed and civilised world’. Somehow I think the behaviour shown toward the genuine people of land contradicts this label, but instead highlights the egotistical, blantant, and damn right disregard of other ‘settled’ human beings. Yes, human beings… that’s what we are isn’t it? Following on from a previous post regarding what we were told as children. Senior family members of mine would say; “Actions speak louder than words”. With that said… do you not think that we have fallen so very short of the line? I embrassingly believe we have. I am sorry for the hurt and pain the people of this place have felt and feel. I cannot even try to understand how they felt then, now and in the future. All I hear are stories that have made my hair stand up, and all I see now is pain that has been passed down through generations – a pain that is still raw and dominant in todays corrupt society. This pain caused by the ruthless, un-invited ‘gate crashers’ only interested in their own selfish agenda. Along with my apology is a committment, a committment that will support this written entry. I will continue to strive to learn about this place and its people. I will acknowledge and maintain respect for the inate values and beliefs that have been established for many, many years.I will not be afraid to show my need to learn, to be taught by those who know best…. the true people of this land.

    May 31, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      That’s an incredible committment that you’ve made Stevie – it’s to be applauded. You mentioned that you’ve only been on this land for a short time. For someone who has been here for only a short time, you’ve obviously seen and experienced a lot to have enabled you to form your views. As I was reading your comments, I became curious about whether or not you work within the child protection sector – whether or not it has been your expereince of working within this sector that has enabled you to notice the things you talked about or whether these are things that you’ve noticed about our society more generally…

      May 31, 2011
  10. Julie #

    I forget sometimes how the larger community view our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as we all tend to associate with people of like values and ideals and of course working in this industry we generally work with others who also have similar values. I was talking to an old friend recently that I hadn’t seen for a long time and we were discussing the increase in the number of people doing it ‘financially tough’ as I certainly see in my work everyday. She made the comment that this was one time when it would be better to be an Aboriginal as they receive more in ‘welfare payments’ and benefits than their aussie counterparts. I was flabbergasted to say the least and it got me thinking that if this well educated person believed that to be true then so would many others in our community and that this urban myth could only serve to divide us even more. I am tired of this “them and us” mentality and there is no point in us saying sorry when we continue to perpetrate these kinds of myths. People are often shocked when you throw statistics at them about health, poverty, housing, crime and child protection but this is often seen as confirming the myths rather than looking at the failed systems that allow these statistics to grow. We abhor the obvious racism in other countries yet fail to address the issues that occur in our own backyard.

    May 31, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Hi Julie – I know exactly what you mean when you talked about the story about your “old friend”. It comes as a shock when you hear people whom you assume aren’t racist saying things that are absolutely racist. And they just don’t seem to “get it”. I guess that it goes back to what Karen was talking about when she was urging people to “truly listen”…

      May 31, 2011
  11. Jill Lang, Director QCOSS #

    A very important issue Lindsay and very important discussion. QCOSS supports your views entirely. We will continue to work with Peakcare and importantly with other community sector organisations and peaks – particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Services Coalition and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak – in condemning racism in this State, and in particular, advocating for a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children. We strongly support the Combined Voices Campaign http://www.combinedvoices.org.au/ and encourage others to join it.

    May 31, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Absolutely Jill! Paul has also mentioned the Combined Voices Campaign and Matt has said that he’ll be taking advanatge of the link that both you and Paul have provided. I hope that others who read this do the same and join the campaign. It would be interesting to hear from people about their views concerning the campaign after they have had a look at this information.

      May 31, 2011
  12. It has been a great privelege for me personally and as the State Manager of The Benevolent Society in our work in Queensland and to be able to form strong partnerships with Aborigianl and Torres Straight Islander organisations in the areas where we are working. These partnerships offer us a continual learning process about what is needed to support Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children, families and communties to reach their full potential. I am deeply sorry about the wrongs of the past and believe that we have much to gain by learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander culture and beliefs to inform our work. I look forward to strengthing and expanding our partnerships and learning. Thank you for the opportunity to partner.
    Michael Tizard, State Manager QLD, The Benevolent Society

    June 1, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Thanks Michael. I think that your comments highlight the importance of organisations bringing the rights sets of values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours into the relationships they wish to form with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities. As you know, this is something that PeakCare is exploring in our What Works Matters project that we are undertaking in partnership with Griffith University and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSCIPP). Information about this project can be obtained from the PeakCare web-site.

      June 2, 2011
  13. Abi #

    Lindsay, that was a great blog as are the others on this page. I come from a very remote part of the U.K where at one time there was only ‘white people’around. I then had the great pleasure of going to Bristol University to study Social Work, what a culture shock and what a learning. I was surronded by different cultures and much prejudice. I was constantly reminded by my friends the day to day sruggles they faced, that were never an issue in my ‘white world’! I did think (stupidly) that when I moved to Australia that things would be different…..but no, they are just the same. It fills me with shame that we still have such racism in our world. Since my eyes were opened I have and will continue to fight for the rights of all people in our world. Sorry is such a tiny word with so much meaning, I think it is fantastic that we have this day but it would mean so much more if I felt we as a nation were! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to speak out Lindsay.

    June 1, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      It is wonderful to hear you speaking out Abi – I am hoping that many more people will. Perhaps some of your collegues who can also bring an “international perspective” to the discussion.

      June 2, 2011
  14. At Encompass, we have a direct interface with the child protection system and get to see some of the best, and the worst, of the on-the-ground efforts of child safety workers (departmental officers, carers, community sector workers). I have noted exceptional efforts to help keep Aboriginal kids within families or well-connected with family and community. It is noteworthy that when this work is done well, it is almost always the result of a respectful team approach which values the knowledge and role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander foster and kinship care service workers. Alongside this great work, I have seen appalling examples of the legacy of not stopping to consider family resources and how these might be supported, when kids have had to be reomoved from home. Very poor decision-making and lack of effort at the beginning stages (often underpinned, I know, by lack of resources)all too often leads to entrenched circumstamces a few years down the track, with a child divorced from family, community and culture. While we are waiting for systemic changes at a whole-of-government level, this is a reminder of how much the individual practitioner can do at a practice level, one child at a time. It’s not easy, given resource-strapped services, but being “sorry” underpins the practice of non-Indigenous workers who truly mean it.

    June 1, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Incredibly wise advice Anne from someone who is very well-placed to know what it takes to make a child protection system work well for all children, young people and families. To me, your words highlight the fact that even if it was possible to throw lots of programs, services and resources at the child protection system, it will not achieve the outcomes we are all seeking to achieve unless there are skilled practitioners in place who are supported and able to effectively case-manage and “work the system” well, who clearly understand the principles of good child protection practice and know that the support provided to facilitate the identification and maintenance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander childen and young people’s connections with their cultures is not some kind of “add-on” to the care they receive – the preservation of their cultural connection is absolutely integral to their safety and well-being.

      June 2, 2011
  15. Lucas Moore #

    I too am sorry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people both past and present, for the disgusting treatment they have experienced and continue to experience in “fair go” Australia. The Combined Voices campaign puts the spotlight on some very concerning child protection statistics but also higlights significant opportunities for change, opportunities to move away from the injustices of the past. As part of our work at CREATE we speak with children and young people about issues relating to the child protection sector; please visit this page for insights on what a group we spoke with at the Murri School late last year had to say;

    http://combinedvoices.org.au/sites/default/files/CREATE%20Consultations.pdf

    June 1, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Thanks for the link to the report Lucas. I just had another read through the report and it contains a wealth of information. I hope that everyone who reads this takes advantage of the opportunity to read it – and to act on it as well.

      June 2, 2011
  16. Thank you Lindsay for linking me to the blog and the comments from some discusting individuals who call them selves Australians. We must remember the past to drive home the need to end injustices now and in the future. I am appalled and saddened by comments that seek to denigrate fellow humans who have the most beautiful culture that we can all learn from. Iam sorry for the injustices of the past and look forward to being part of the soultion in the future. The blood runing through our veins makes us all related as human beings and as such we all have a responsibilty to both identify and pusue relolution for our past wrongs. I am truly privledged to be part of an organisation that has no barriers to race and welcomes the learning we can all receive from our ancient and unique indigenous peoples. I seek to learn and celebrate or Indigenous peoples however I can only do that if I am truly sorry and that I am.

    June 2, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Thanks Bryan. In speaking out on behalf of Foster Care Queensland, you represent some of the most tireless and dedicated members of the child protection system (i.e. Foster Carers). It’s fantastic that they have added their voice to these concerns. Your words have posed a challenge to everyone about how we can all learn and teach others to celebrate the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Starit Islander cultures.

      June 2, 2011
  17. Maria #

    It is sad to see how ill informed many people are of the real history of Australia, the ongoing racism and the ongoing impacts this has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – such as the proportional higher rates of homelessness due to poverty and overcrowding. I am sorry and try to individually and where possible join with others to do my bit – as Kev Carmody tells us “from little things big things grow”.

    June 4, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland #

      Thanks for your comments Maria – and thanks to Kev Carmody too, of course! I think that adding your voice to these concerns is doing a lot – not just a bit. It all helps when people join together and speak out against racism.

      June 5, 2011
  18. Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland #

    As our conversation proceeds, I think that it’s important to not forget that the original post was prompted by the experience of one woman having had racist taunts directed at her. And this wasn’t just any woman – this woman is a highly acclaimed, successful recording artist and performer. I guess it shows that even “fame and fortune” does not provide a person with protection against becoming the subject of racist attitudes and behaviour. I can only imagine the kind of resilience and grace that this woman has had to call upon as a well-known, public figure in not being brought down by these kinds of comments. This makes me a big fan – both of her as a musician and as a person. She is an inspiration!
    Whilst this conversation is about one woman, it is also about other individuals who are far too frequently sharing her experience of being the subject of racist attitudes and behaviour. It is not just about figures and numbers and programs and policies. It is about the story of people’s lives. It is about the challenges faced by thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children who, on a daily basis, have to contend with racism that is either implict or explicit. It is about instilling hope that this will one day be different.

    June 6, 2011
  19. Katherine #

    I am sorry for the treatment of Indigenous Australian. As a non murri women I am ashamed at the gap that is present still today. I am ashamed of the racism and false beliefs that still exist in the community, many of which stem from the despicable media who twist words in which uniformed people believe as gospel. I am almost finished an Education degree and promise to teach children in the early years about respect for all and to embed Indigenous perspectives into my daily curriculum and continue to acknowledge Australia’s traditional owners.
    P.s I think sorry day should be recognised as a celebration / public holiday : a reminder to all!!

    June 6, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener #

      Thanks for your comments Katherine. It’s good to know that teachers are also wanting to address this issue. I was very pleased to recently see a local school had incorporated quotes from this blog post within a “front page story” about National Sorry Day that appeared in their school newsletter. It’s good to know that people from across sectors share our concerns.

      June 6, 2011
  20. Katrina #

    I too am sorry and although reading these comments is very heartening, it is the ‘converted’ who are conversing. How can we stop ‘preaching to the converted’ and make some headway in the rest of the population? How do we engage the people who made the comments in the first place? How do we communicate with them in an empathic way that helps them understand how unhelpful, dehumanising and disempowering their comments are? I don’t have the answers, but I think these are the real questions.

    June 6, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland #

      Ideas anyone?
      Certainly, the Combined Voices Campaign that has already been mentioned by Paul, Jill and Lucas has been an incredibly good initiative in allowing organisations and individuals involved in the delivery of child protection and related services to “combine our voices” in raising concerns about the social and economic disadvantage that continues to be experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
      I’m sure that everyone who is involved with Combined Voices however would welcome any or all of the ideas that people have about strengthening the effectiveness of this campaign – at State-wide, regional and local levels.
      So how about making use of this discussion to hear from people who have some ideas and possibly hold at least some of the answers to the “real questions” posed by Katrina…

      June 6, 2011
      • I’m interested in the constitutional reforms and consultation process as outlined in You Me Unity video found in the Still Sorry post. I want to see our commitment to apology made explicit in the Australian constitution! I’d get behind this as an individual, as part of our organization, and maybe even as part of our sector!

        June 6, 2011
  21. Steve Jacques #

    I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be ‘sorry’ and firmly believe that to be sorry means that you take responsibility, whether personally or collectively, and you put in place a commitment through your action to not do something again but in that process do what is right to put it right (even if it takes a generation!!). Attending the SNAICC conference challenged me to make sure that we stay out of our comfort zones nor turn a ‘blind eye’ to what we see around us nor allow our sense of shame to cause inaction. I am sorry and I will do everything I can to prove it!

    June 6, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland #

      Thanks Steve – “do what is right to put it right” sounds like a pretty good mantra to me!
      For those who have not heard of SNAICC, SNAICC stands for Secretariat of National and Islander Child Care and it is the national non-Government peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. More information about SNAICC can be obtained from their web-site – http://www.snaicc.asn.au/

      June 6, 2011
  22. Keith #

    Like most other folks, I write from my own experience, knowledge, and from a place where I have come in my heart and hopefully from that place where I hope to end up.
    My background is one that is truly mixed. My mothers side is both Indigenous and English, my father’s side is both Jewish and Irish, I grew up in a household that was on the one hand very enlightening, but on the other hand confusing at times. You see, my mother was ‘taken into care’ as a young one, by the child protection system at the time (around the 1940’s and early 1950’s) just because of the colour of her skin (which was white, blond hair, blue eyes). My uncle looks completely different by the way – and because he looks Indigenous he was left with the family, and it is a trend that was carried through to my generation where my sister has dark skin, black hair and brown eyes, yet I have white skin and blue eyes. For us, this is normal, but for those around us we often get asked “Are you from the same mother?” My background is continuously challenged by a large variety of people.
    What happened to my mother happened to many many children over the ages. It was because the ‘system’ thought they were doing her a favour. Well, the ‘favour’ they did was to take her from her family, put her into a church run organisation, taught her to sew because it was one of those ‘work houses’, but in reality it was slave labour.
    I now work with people as a counsellor, I go up to the Torres Strait regularly, as this was where my mother was born. I find it challenging from a couple of perspectives. First, my role in advocating for services to organisations that are predominantly run by non-Indigenous people. Second, the fact that I look different I am continuously confronted with question marks on people’s faces. I am however mostly confronted by organisations that are bent on providing services to Indigenous Peoples according to how they think it should be done, and this is a pretty good indication to me that racism is embedded into western culture. It’s also a pretty good indication to me that ‘sorry’ is just a word.
    While ‘sorry’ is just a word, it does have real meaning to those who use it. Both from those who say it, and to those who it is meant for. The word “sorry” is just the beginning of the journey, followed by actions that carry real meaning. Sorry is a word used to describe something that is felt, but than taken action on. The action in this case is – change for the positive.
    What I fear, is that the word ‘sorry’ is and has been used as a token response, not a real one. I guess we could say that man’s intentions are measured in deeds – and not by the words they speak. In terms of how the various systems treat our Indigenous Cultures, when we see the over-representation of Indigenous Children in the Child Safety system addressed, when we see the over-representation of Indigenous Adults in our corrections systems addressed, when we see a true level of understanding and a real change, that is when we can truly say “We are sorry”.

    June 23, 2011
    • Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland #

      Thank you Keith. I think everyone who has been able to read your comments should feel privileged that you have shared with us your wisdom – the kind of wisdom that comes from experience. I know that I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity – once again, thank you!

      July 4, 2011

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