Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 13 2008 – An Apology and a new heart for Australia

February 13 2008 – An Apology and a new heart for Australia

Messages of ‘Sorry’ and ‘support’ started flooding in via sms and email on Monday. They reached a peak as the speeches ended yesterday morning and I stood amongst thousands on Parliamentary Hill, breathing in fresh air that was filled with hope, history, forgiveness and unity.

Every time my phone rang or beeped the lump in my throat grew as I took messages and calls from people all around the country. Some were ex-students of mine, others were people I’d been to primary school with. One message came from someone I met on the Gold Coast at schoolies in 1986. I was just one of many blackfellas who received an outpouring of love and support from friends and colleagues that for me included publishers, producers, professors, fellow artists, public servants and stay at home mums. I even received a couple of emails from people I didn’t really know that well.

While many of the people who contacted me don’t know each other, they had many things in common. Firstly, the group I am talking about were all non-Aboriginal. Secondly, they shared a common language that included terms like ‘sorry’, ‘healing’, ‘relief’, ‘justice’, ‘hope’, ‘peace’, ‘solidarity’, ‘renewed hope’, ‘there in spirit’, and ‘moving forward together’. These words were accompanied I’m told, by a lot of emotion, many tears and boxes of tissues.

On the ground, I shared the joy of Kevin Rudd’s words with my family and friends, but also with thousands of complete strangers standing around me. There were hugs and tears and sighs of relief. The applause that echoed around Parliament House came from Australians (and some tourists) who’d taken leave from their work and their normal daily lives to be part of one of the most pivotal moments in this nation’s history.

To be honest with you, the apology for me was about finding some peace for those stolen and our families, and there were many levels of relief experienced when Rudd finally said ‘SORRY’, six times! His carefully crafted and sincere words finally provided Australians of all denominations the opportunity to heal themselves, and to share what was in their hearts. An apology from the national parliament also legitimised what many had felt for many, many years.

I heard many non-Aboriginal Australians say yesterday “I am so proud now to be Australian.” One text message I received said, “I now know what it means to be a proud Australian.” It seems to me that Kevin Rudd gave our nation a new sense of identity and perhaps a new sense of patriotism with his words.

As for Brendan Nelson channelling John Howard through his speech, well that’s another blog altogether, but quite frankly I’ve got better things to do with my words than respond to his lack of insight. The Liberal Party was left behind yesterday as the rest of Parliament and Australia made history for the betterment of this great nation.

I am still emotional about what the last 24 hours has done for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. But I am filled with hope and expectation for what we can do now to ensure real social equity and sovereignty for the First Peoples of Australia.


Anita Heiss


Belongum said...

It certainly was an amazing day Anita... no doubt about it! And as to Brendan Nelson - well I gave him a paragraph over on my little soapbox (blog), and what a complete waste of a leadership opportunity!

I wish you and your people well Anita - may they find some peace amongst the words spoken so well yesterday. My mother cried - and I - well... I was simply swept away by it all - wet with tears, and finally proud of an Australian Prime Minister.

I hope his resolve holds, and our collective peoples - ALL peoples - across Australia, move forward together now... casting off some of that hurt as they go... it was such a WOW! day... I'm still in shock!


Ron Bradfield (Jnr)

Dr Anita Heiss said...

Hi Ron - thanks so much for your words. I do honestly believe we are on the road to recovery. And probably the most tears shed at any one time in the nation's history. I've had many many grown men and women tell me they wept openly and fully. It's good for the soul mate. And yes, totally a WOW day!
In peace and unity, Anita

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Yes. Andrew and I watched the whole event on TV, and wept - with a mixture of emotions, one of them joy. It was profoundly moving, and a helluva relief at last.

Tash said...

This is such a great post, to mark such an amazing day in Australia!

Unknown said...

Beautiful. My mother lived in Wee Waa when she was little. The day her teacher left to move away, the teacher went around and kissed every child goodbye, except an Aboriginal girl named Rosie, whose hand she shook. My six year old mother instinctively knew how very wrong that was and made sure her life, and that of her children, was one of acceptance, compassion, humanism, empathy and understanding.

When the apology was announced, I bought a ticket home from NZ and drove with my brother to Canberra to stand on that lawn and hear those words. It still chokes me up to remember that day, and to think of how many have suffered in the name of colonialism.

I wish you a very happy Apology Day.

Woven light said...

how five years on there is still power behind these thoughts and memories...the simplicity of words gives freedom of heart mind and spirit....

eating and reading said...

Hey I kept our kids home from school (in BRISBANE), all 5 and 8 years old so we could as a family watch on TV. It was so emotional and the memory is very clear in her mind today. It has kept her thinking and questioning. This is how we move forward collectively.
beautiful post \. x

eating and reading said...

Hey I kept our kids home from school (in BRISBANE), all 5 and 8 years old so we could as a family watch on TV. It was so emotional and the memory is very clear in her mind today. It has kept her thinking and questioning. This is how we move forward collectively.
beautiful post \. x

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