As an Anawain/Koomilaroi man, I wish to acknowledge all Elders past, present and future and I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Yagara peoples – the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul Clans on whose land I now work and live.
This year Thursday 26th May marks National Sorry Day which then leads into the celebration of Reconciliation week commencing on the 27th May until the 3rd of June. Both events represent a significant and important part of the life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. Both events have also come to take on significance in the lives of many non-indigenous Australians and present a positive opportunity for all Australians to further the process of Reconciliation. Relationships Australia Queensland has formally acknowledged the significance of these and related events through our Reconciliation Action Plan.
So why say sorry? It is a fair question asked by many Australians who played no actual part in the initial dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. After all, isn’t it just a historical issue now and we should all just move forward?
I would like to offer you two thoughts for reflection:
There are two ways to think about being sorry. One is where someone deliberately cause harm or offence to someone else. It is appropriate for the person who has caused harm or offence to go to those they have wronged to apologise and try and set things right. The second is where your neighbour (whom you may not know all that well) suffers a bereavement. You may take a casserole around to their house and tell them sincerely that you are sorry for their loss.
In terms of reconciliation, many think colonisation is a historical issue. It is not. The process of colonisation continues to impact on Australia’s First Nation People today. Mining, agriculture, tourism and other industry still impacts on our traditional lands, and we are still struggling to ‘close the gap’ in regards to education, housing and health. In ‘mainstream’ society they tell us ‘50 is the new 30’. In June this year I will turn 55 and I will have statistically outlived my life expectancy of 54 years for an Aboriginal man. It gives us something to think about.
So this year spend some time reflecting on Reconciliation, and check out our and other websites to see how you might join in some of the many activities that will be run to recognise these two important events.
-- Chris is a counsellor and educator with Relationships Australia and this blog post represents his personal views. We recognise there are several other perspectives to Sorry Day and this blog expresses the important personal feelings of one valued member of our team.