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Monday, February 25, 2008

Hockey for Leader, outsource the Speaker's job to Sunrise

Now that Brendan Nelson has confirmed he is the worst Leader of the Opposition in Australia's history with an illustrious single digit rating in the polls, the commentariat are talking leadership change and Joe Hockey's name is getting a mention.

Well, how slow are they!

Miss Eagle suggested Hockey for the Leader of the Opposition immediately after last year's election. But, displaying great prescience, Miss Eagle also made suggestions about the Speaker's position.

Last Friday, the House of Representatives saw a great display of lawlessness and disobedience on the part of the Opposition. When a member was ordered to leave the House and refused to go, the member was then escorted from the chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms. Clearly, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker were not up to the job. So perhaps Klever Kevvie - who undoubtedly will have things pulled into gear for the March sittings - might like to take up Miss Eagle's suggestion for the Speakership re-published below.

The Sunrise Family

Then we would have the old team - Joe on one side and Kevin on the other. Well, not quite the old team, eh dear Reader? So, ergo Sunrise and team for Speaker. Who better?

At this point in time, whoever Klevver Kevie nominates as Speaker won't be experienced. But Sunrise is experienced. The Sunrise Team is used to intervening, sorting things out and making people stick to the rules of the game. OK, I know, I know. They all, including Kevvie, got a bit expeditious on the Vietnam expedition. I am sure that Mel and Kochie and Nat and Andrew can sort things out though. And the Speaker-ship might give Kerry Stokes and his meany crew something to focus on instead of The Chaser team.

Grant could tell us which way the wind blows. Mark could lighten proceedings with cricket, football (all codes), and basketball and netball scores.

All in all, I think it would the ultimate in outsourcing: Sunrise for Speaker and bring really serious entertainment to the six o'clock news!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Christians Against Terrorism walk free and acquitted!

Free at last. Ruddock’s rotten rules couldn’t hold them. Read all about it here.Congratulations one and all. Miss Eagle is glad that your ordeal is over. God go with you into a new day!

Brendan Nelson stays home and sulks.

It is becoming clear just what sort of people dominate the 2008 manifestation of the Liberal Party. They are the people who just don't get it. They are the deaf who will not hear, the blind who will not see. Miss Eagle presumes that these sensory defective people have the numbers. I do not presume that there are no right-minded people in the Liberal Party. After all Pietro Georgiou, for one, is still there. I haven't heard that sort of voice getting any traction in recent debate on Aboriginal matters.

To-day Brendan Nelson and the Liberals are sulking: sulking so badly that Nelson has refused the bi-partisan offer made by the Prime Minister last week for the Leader of the Opposition to visit Aboriginal communities. The Prime Minister has nominated Friday as a day when Ministers do not have to be present in Question Time and backbenchers have greater freedom to have their say. Can someone explain to me what is wrong with that? I only have a problem with people who live in Northern Australia and the fact that they won't be home in their electorates on Friday nights, if for the weekend at all. But that's another story.

The fact is Brendan Nelson is protesting. He is not protesting about or for people. No, he is protesting about how the business of Parliament is being organised. In the current context, not the greatest item on the Agenda since the Magna Carta. In fact, Parliamentary procedure is never more important than humanity. This appears to have escaped Nelson and Abbott.

Of course, a visit to Walgett may be on the embarrassing side for Nelson - and for Abbott, too, if he were ever to move beyond the Northern Beaches of Sydney. After all, Walgett - like them and their electorates - is in New South Wales.

Now, Miss Eagle is not suggesting that life for Aboriginal people in Walgett has not improved since the Freedom Ride of 1967. Aboriginal kids use the swimming pool which once was out of the question. But Miss Eagle lived in Walgett in 2001-2002 and found it a place whose population had little knowledge of the history and social construct of the three Aboriginal groups who each call Walgett their country.

All but one business had windows covered with wire mesh. Sitting outside the one meshless business and watching was interesting. And it became clear why this one business - with an owner of Chinese ethnicity - had no mesh. This was clearly a place in which Aboriginal people felt comfortable doing business. Clearly, there was mutual trust in this place which was missing elsewhere.

Walgett - which includes the opal town of Lightning Ridge - has difficulties with its own governance. It has been in administration since 2004 and will have fresh elections later this year. The Walgett Shire Council has had an Aboriginal councillor before. Let's hope that this year they can get up more than one representative.

In Miss E's view there is a silent stand-off casting a pall over Walgett. There is the dominating force of local pastoralists - many of whom seem to see themselves as a sort of landed gentry. These are the people to whom owning land is important on many levels not least of which is as an economic base.

I'm not sure that the pastoralists see that this is probably the one great thing - apart from common humanity - that they have in common with Aboriginal people. To Aboriginal people the land is important on many levels not least of which is for sustenance of life.

However, Aboriginal relationship to land is not based, as it is for the whitefella, on "ownership". But then, in fact, many of Walgett Shire's "landed gentry" would not own the land either - at least in the freehold sense. Miss E's guess is that pastoral leasehold would still be the dominant land tensure. Please correct her if she is wrong.

So to-day a Prime Minister comes to the country of the two rivers, the Barwon and the Namoi. These rivers contribute to the major arterial system of our nation - the Murray-Darling system. I hope the visit of Kevin Rudd brings a similar hope, inspiration, and change just as the Freedom Ride did. And I hope Walgett remembers the time when the Anglican minister who had been willing to provide hospitality to the Freedom Riders felt obliged to withdraw his hospitality.

Miss Eagle hopes for the day when doors are truly open to all in Walgett and the mesh can come down from the windows.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Of floods, potholes, and infrastructure

For the story that goes with the picture above, click here.
The Big Wet continues in North Queensland as the flooding moves north. Mackay is mopping up from its biggest wet. I have posted on the Don River and associated flooding in Bowen. Now Townsville is having its problems. Miss Eagle is a banana-bender. She lives in Victoria now - but cannot yet say that she is a Victorian. Most of her life has been spent in North Queensland. Before coming to Melbourne and Upper Gully, Miss E lived at Bluewater only 15 minutes away from where the flooding, pictured below, has occurred.

But there is one thing that bugs Miss Eagle - and that is the fact that there is not a flood-free four-lane highway in North Queensland from Sarina to Mossman. When I visit Brisbane I see all the money that is spent just to keep pace with congestion. In North Queensland, however, the necessary road spending is not a matter of congestion. It is a matter of being able to move around in The Wet. Of being able to keep industry going, of being able to transport people needing medical attention.

When Miss E was a whipper-snapper in North Queensland and went on the annual road-trip to the Brisbane rellies for Christmas, January was not quite the same if one was not stuck beside a flooded creek or river on the way home. That has been more or less in the past as high level bridges have been constructed. However, all that bridge-building has still left the north with flood-prone pot-holed "highways", some quite narrow and curvaceous and dangerous. This is not a wishlist. This is a demand for necessary infrastructure.

It is high time that governments of every hue and classification - local, state, territory, federal - woke up to themselves on infrastructure spending. We have talked a lot of garbage for over two decades now about how Australia believes in a level playing field and does not subsidise business and agriculture. However, just as a lack of investment in the family home means it goes to rack and ruin and loses its value in the market-place, so does lack of investment in our nation. Investment in infrastructure such as road and rail provides jobs for the community, necessary business inputs, lifelines to health, education, and economic access. In short, investment in infrastructure is an economic subsidy which benefits the whole community - not just vested interest.

If we are to remain a truly cohesive and equitable nation, then investment in infrastructure is necessary. We have apologised to Aboriginal people this week and talked about health and education and employment inputs. But one of the most vital things you can do for Aboriginal communities is to provide them with all-weather road access. Without good road access, Aboriginal communities cannot begin to build any form of local economy. Without good road access, it is difficult for them to access services the rest of us take for granted. Without good road access, it is difficult for Aboriginal people to access medical services or for medical services to access Aboriginal communities.

And, dear Reader, guess what the problem is? It is the out of sight, out of mind syndrome. In Queensland, Brisbane is at the very bottom of the state, far far away from Mackay, Bowen, Townsville, Cairns. And let's not mention Mount Isa and the Gulf country - the Gulf country which can remain immersed in and cut off by floods for three months of the year because the country is so close to sea level.

People are hearing horror stories of children in Aboriginal communities on Cape York. Now that is even further out of sight and out of mind from Brisbane. To the extent that political leadership has almost certainly never had anything to do with the Aboriginal communities of the Cape and their traditions. How different from the Northern Territory where representation of Aboriginal people in the Parliament of the NT almost exactly matches the proportion of Aboriginal people in the Territory population.

So it can be very difficult to make yourself heard in the Parliament of Queensland if you are from the North and it gets more difficult the more remote you are from the east coast.

This problem of the lack of decent road infrastructure has always been there. We are only now starting to understand the La Nina effect and old hands look back to the floods of the forties and fifties and say "Ahah - that's what is was all about, eh!" But now there is another addition to our knowledge - Climate Change. And, if governments don't bite the bullet and do something about all-weather highway access and all-weather access to remote communities, matters will only get worse.

As any North Queenslander knows, Brisbane loves the money that flows from the North from mining, grazing, sugar, horticulture, tourism. But getting money out of Brisbane for necessary infrastructure and services is, all too often, like getting blood out of a stone. Or if funds are given they are not given with the same largesse as the funding given within the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast axis.

So, North Queensland, when the mopping up is over and you see all those local authority and bitumen people patching up the potholes to make some new bumps in your patchwork quilt of a road, get your act together and start kicking up a fuss. The squeaky wheel not only gets the most grease, it is frequently the only wheel to get any grease at all. Demand a fair share + catch up on road spending. And all you southern tourists who love to winter in the tropical sun, please get right behind them.

A photographic instance of the lack of a flood-free four-lane highway.

Please note: To the left is the high bridge over the Bohle River, just north of the twin cities of Townsville and Thuringowa. To the right is the low bridge. The high bridge carries two lanes of traffic. In dry times it is one-way traffic. In flood times, it is two-way traffic. Townsville is the industrial hub and de facto capital of North Queensland. It deserves better than this. Local Authority elections for an amalgamation of the two cities are coming up. Who is going to push this infrastructure barrow?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What on earth! For Pete's sake......!

What does The Age think it's doing? The non-sporting but active Miss Eagle didn't have a clue there was something called the WoodVale Atlantic Rowing Race. The Age has taken the trouble to tell us about this because of the Australian who has become the first Aussie to row solo across the Atlantic. What gets Miss E., dear Reader, is how The Age describes him:

The article also describes him as a 'desk-jockey'. Then there is a whole litany of stuff which dwells on doubtful competence for such a task. In fact, one has visions of a "couch potato" although there is no mention of horizontal TV viewing.
But take a look at this hunk of spunk!

Now click over here for vital statistics: Pete Collett weights 95kg spread over a 6'3" frame.

He is very sporty and a very experienced seaman and water sportsman. He even did without the smoking en route. The one thing I will hand him full marks for is overcoming cellulitis on the trip. Miss Eagle is susceptible to recurring bouts of cellulitis (although Melbourne's climate seems to provide protection - no episodes since living here) and they are dreadful. The first time I was in hospital for two weeks unable to walk unaided. The next time I was hospitalised for a week. Then I had the good fortune to come under the ministrations of a GP who could treat the infection immediately, get on top of it, and prevent hospitalisation. Our hunk of spunk hero could not get the usual IV drugs, ate everything in the medicine chest, and overcame it! No unhealthy person could do that, in my view!

Congratulations, Pete, and please donate to his good cause over here.

The Don... Mighty River of the Peoples of Ancient Djiru...

My good friend Patricia Corowa and her daughter Virginia Kruger have been on the receiving end of wonderful photographs of the mighty Don River, just north of Bowen in North Queensland - at the northern end of the famed Whitsundays. Patricia and I grew up in Bowen - so we have memories of going out to the banks of the Don to rejoice in its raging, fast flowing waters. It was always said that the Don, in flood, was the fastest running river in Australia because of the steep and relatively short gradient from mountains to mouth.

Up to the job? Miss Eagle thinks so

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald
Denis has posted a comment on the previous post in which he expresses his views on Jenny Macklin. Miss Eagle has commented there but gives the comment wider currency here:


Don't agree with you on Macklin.
In recent years in opposition, true, there was nothing much to be impressed about. But there was a time some years ago when Jenny had the scalps of Liberal ministers hanging from her belt. I think we are seeing Jenny Macklin coming into her own.

A lot of the ground work leading up to this week's Sorry was done by Jenny and her department - and it was thorough. I suspect she and others working with her put in the hard yards of discussion - and discussion in blackfella terms doesn't mean formulating a motion and asking for a show of hands.

In blackfella decision-making everyone, every last interested person, has to be spoken to and their views sought. Now I'm not saying that Jenny spoke to every living member of the Stolen Generations but there were numerous organisations and influentials involved in all this and they all had to be spoken to.

There have been other ministerial responsibilities to keep on top of as well. And a boss whose style is highly involved managerialism to satisfy. And then there was the history of the occasion to satisfy - everything had to be right. Wednesday would be no dress rehearsal. It had to be got right in terms of policy, semiotics and impact - and, if you are cynical, sheer politics. I think Jenny should have a little sign hanging around her neck saying "Watch this space". After all, she will not want to be adversely compared with Julia and nor will Julia want it vice-versa.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rudd - and a report card

On Kevin Rudd's way to the Prime Ministership, Miss Eagle was hopeful - but with many reservations. The reservations had their genesis in too much me-too-ism. Memories of the worst of the Goss Labor Government in Queensland for which Rudd was the right hand man. These reservations led to a few posts with this picture:

While Kevin 07 performed the necessary gymnastics on the way to The Lodge, Miss Eagle wondered out loud what it was that Kevin Rudd would stand for, would not resile from.

We are now at the end end of the first parliamentary sitting week of the new Labor government. Michelle Grattan has published her review of the performance so far. Miss Eagle's report card is in the form of an edited version of the picture.

Miss Eagle remains unhappy with Rudd's decision to keep the full impact of changes to industrial relations until 2010. Similarly, she does not favour delaying changes in the excesses of private school funding until 2010. All this makes as much sense to Miss E as saying to Kevin Rudd on election night that he had been elected but John Howard would remain in power for another three years. Corporations - whether they are major employers or classy corporate schools - don't think twice about delaying their impositions on others. They - if they were bright enough, flexible enough - would have factored in their risks from a change of government. So there would have been no shocks and few surprises. But still they received the soft end of the wedge.

However - and Miss E does wince slightly at the "however" - after Wednesday's superb and visionary and inclusive performance Miss Eagle can forgive much. It is undergirded by Rudd's very first call on business - to deal with homelessness. If Rudd continues to prioritise justice in this way, Miss Eagle will be able to wear the other stuff. Miss Eagle must also comment on the manner in which Rudd is setting the pace: business-like in his attention to the tasks at hand; informed by the hallmarks of Labor in government; intent on setting fresh standards of civility and vision. And all this in a down to earth manner with few, if any signs, of pretension of office.

Miss Eagle looks forward to more of that which has made such a great beginning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sorry - the beginning of wheat-green hope

There we were in Federation Square, Melbourne...
an estimated 8000 of us...
under the flags unfurled of the indigenous nations
of Australia.
We were there to hear our government say sorry.
Andrew Jackomos of the Yorta Yorta initiated proceedings.
An old friend of Miss Eagles, Rob Hulls - Acting Premier of Victoria - spoke formally.
The crowd was attentive.
There were the activists calling for compensation.
There were high school students...
in uniform...
taking time out.
There were the kids...
...and the buttons...
...and the t-shirts
...speaking what was in our hearts.
There were tears and cheers...
laughter and applause.
Then the disbelief, the pain of the Leader of the Opposition's speech.
They turned their backs in anger, disgust, and sorrow.
Miss Eagle stood beneath the loudspeakers at the back.
A well-dressed good looking twenty-something man spoke to her.
"Do you mind if I unplug the speakers?" he said politely.
"Feel free." Miss Eagle said cheerily.

She had turned her back on Howard -
at the Opera House, Corroboree 2000,
all those years ago.
Turned her back against his lies,
his hate, his meanness.
Brendan Nelson didn't seem worth the effort.
He has no power against the vision birthed yesterday.
His looking-backwards words
told us nothing, took us nowhere
except into the pain and sadness
of a certain sort of whitefella.


And then back to Upper Gully.
Quiet, whitefella country.
The blackfellas left long ago -
one way or another.
But here a simple beginning was made.
A simple prayer service
at St Thom's.
And for whom did we pray?
In the spirit of wheat-green hope,
I think it was for us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry - a new and national beginning


To-day is an historic day for the Commonwealth of Australia. In the Parliament of the nation, in Canberra, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will apologise to the Aboriginal people of this nation continent for the mistreatment of Aboriginal people since European settlement began in 1788. Above all, he will apologise for the forced removal of children from their families and communities - an episode referred to as The Stolen Generations.

There has been great demand for an apology since the recommendations handed down in the Bringing Them Home report. Prime Minister John Howard, Prime Minister from 1996-2007, refused to apologise. Howard - a mean-spirited, conservative, and stubborn man - merely expressed regret but went on to promulgate the lie that no ill-treatment was carried out in living memory.

One positive effect of Howard's inaction in this matter has been to increase resolve on the part of countless Australians to see the apology carried out. Most Australians want to resolve the issues and hatreds and maltreatments of the past. We do not want the bitterness, the recrimination to continue. We want to give expression to a new way doing things which is informed by the knowledge of our history good and bad. Australians want an inclusive nation - and certainly not one where the Aboriginal people are fringedwellers socially and economically.

And so yesterday a new beginning was made with the opening of the new Parliament. For the first time in Australian history, Aboriginal people were at the centre of the ceremonial inaugurating the new parliamentary term with a Welcome to Country ceremony. Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, both made clear that as long as they had anything to do with it, Aboriginal ceremony would become an integral part of the Opening of Parliament.

To-day, Aboriginal people will stand with the Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament for the delivery of the apology. The text of the apology, set out below, was tabled in Parliament yesterday and the apology is the first item of business in the new parliamentary term.

From time to time, on this blog, Miss Eagle has discussed the topic of public forgiveness. It has been discussed in the context of public figures apologising, saying sorry. How then does the public respond to that apology and advise if there is an acceptance of the apology and whether forgiveness is the response?

After the apology to-day, Miss Eagle expects that we will enter - for a time - the realm of public forgiveness. The apology will be discussed. We will hear critiques and criticism. We will find out who is satisfied with and by it and who is not. To-day we formally enter the time of new beginnings - of repair and building. All Australians are not at the same place on this matter. But enough of us are to carry the day throughout the nation, to demand inclusion, to demand involvement so that Aboriginal people are do-ers, not done to: so that they are self-determining actors in their own story and that all Australians - settlers and Aboriginal people together - will build a new and equitable way of operating to bring that great tradition of a fair go to everyone.


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.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The apology - an end and a beginning?

In 1770, my ancestor, the Amercian John Gore, was on the Endeavour with Capt James Cook RN when the continent now known as Australia was claimed by Cook for the United Kingdom. Approximately sixty years later, his son - also John Gore - settled on a land grant at Lake Bathurst near Goulburn in New South Wales. A land grant? Where did the land come from. Undoubtedly usurped, stolen from the first peoples of this land.

Black and white relationships in Australia have not been good. European settlers have massacred black Australians, have taken their land and their children away, have nitpicked their ancestry, have kept them from full participation in the life, economy and governance of this nation. The Bringing Them Home report has been a significant milestone in black white relationships from which Australians have not been able to retreat. Since that report there has been a call for a national apology.

John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia from 1997-2007, had great difficulty with the concept of a national apology. He could not use the word 'sorry' and merely expressed regret. This failure on Howard's part remained like a festering wound. Now, the new Australian government under the leadership of Kevin Rudd has made it the first item of business at the first session of Parliament next Wednesday, 13 February 2008.

We do not yet know the wording of the apology but there have been ongoing negotiations with Aboriginal leadership. The Opposition Liberal and National Parties have been their usual selves - with many supporting the apology and many against. It seems likely, however, that next Wednesday the apology will receive bi-partisan support although the Opposition complains that it still has not seen the proposed wording. The Opposition is now down to arguing whether the phrase "Stolen Generations" should be used in spite of this fact becoming synonymous with the removal of Aboriginal children.

My dear friend, Patricia Corowa, has written to the Prime Minister about the apology. Patricia lives in Sydney but grew up, as did Miss Eagle, in Bowen in North Queensland where she is much respected. Patricia has a long history of Aboriginal advocacy behind her. As a very young woman she took an active and visible role in the events leading up to the 1967 Referendum. She has travelled internationally as a representative of Aboriginal people advocating on their behalf. She has been an adviser to two ALP Federal Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs. Patricia will be in Canberra on Wednesday. Here is Patricia's letter:

My Dear Prime Minister:

I understand that you and your government are preparing the draft for an apology... and are finding it difficult... and I can appreciate your difficulty... because of all the significant issues that the government of the day was faced with... when it introduced and rigidly and cruelly acted upon its policy of protection... and which is the heritage for ensueing governments... right up to the government which you head... today... so that descendants of the First Tribes, People Tongues and the Ancient Nations of the Land... could be removed from mothers, fathers, families, clans, skin groups, tribes and ancient nations of the land... in the name of the crown...

This protective removal was with the complicity of its bureacracy... and of the churches... and of the media... and of the squatocracy... and of the freed convicts... and the primary producers... and the secondary producers... and the tertiary producers... and of the defence personnel who went to fight in the European Wars of 1914-1918... and of 1939-1945... and following the deportation of Pacific Islanders in 1906... and the parallel White Australia Policy... and all that that entailed for endentured labourers from Asia and the Pacific... and why there is a reluctance for reparations... to the traumatised, in-crisis Aboriginal peoples of the ancient first nations of the land... who have suffered generational... invasion and extermination policies of Britain, under a war and battles that have been on-going since 16 August 1770... when the European James Cook... took possession of an island at the tip of Cape York... in the name of the crown... then protection in the name of the Crown... then assimilation in the name of the crown... then integration in the name of the crown... then self-determination in the name of the crown... and now back to assimilation in the name of the crown...

All you need to do... I suggest... is to refer to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers Numbers 19, 20, and 21... about 1919-1920... and particularly to the Report of Cook & Bleakley... upon whose recommendations... the government's policy of protection was introduced... and the birthing and removal of half caste children from the Northern Territory... a protectorate... not a state of the federation... insiduously began... not as some have mistakenly believed... so that white women... would not be shamed... when they drove around the district... or even in their own homes... saw the physical characteristics of their own husbands, fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, counsins and male friends... on the persons of half caste children all around them... but to provide a labour force... in the name of the crown... for the recently named Australia... which also in the name of the crown... was now superimposed... but has never obliberated... not even because of the overthrowing of the dicta of terra nullius... all of the up to 900 ancient first nations of this land... my own being Djirudala...

Because when the success of that first Northern Territory intervention... in the name of the crown... was seen... the states of the federation... Queensland and Western Australia... rapidly followed... then by others... despite the referendum of 1967... after which the Commonwealth took responsibility for its Aboriginal... and later Torres Strait Islander "citizens"... under the crown... and still continues... under the Howard government's Northern Territory intervention... under the crown...

So Prime Minister... I can see your government's difficulties... but for a sincere and profound apology to be given... by Australia... to the peoples of the ancient first nations of this land... and for generational wrongs to be made rights... the sovereignty of the first nations of the land have to be recognised... treaties to bring peace have to be negotiated and enacted... between all of those ancient first nations... and the crown... and reparations be made... so that basic human rights... including release of all Aboriginal prisoners held in gaols around the land... in the name of the crown... that we go back to our own country... on allodial land rights... and take care of it... where we can again have healthy, nutritious food and traditional medicine... safe, secure shelter... love, comfort and sharing of family... on our own country... the heritage of our ancestors... in a culture... as you have recognised... to be the oldest... still practised... on the planet...

You have the resources Prime Minister... as have every PM and government of Australia... before you... so it should be easy... for you to frame your apology... to acknowledge where the removal of half caste... then all Aboriginal children... had its genesis... eventually in every state and territory of the federation... and be prepared... for the next steps... in the ongoing process... for the future of us all... for as Australian laws stand now... we are all... whether of the ancient first nations of the land... or boat peoples since 1770... under the crown... corporation sole...

I trust that you will take into consideration... all that I have written to you... and I await to see... whether any of it is contained in your apology... particularly the report of Cook & Bleakley...

And I also await... as a sovereign... to see how competently... or not... you... and your government... govern...

Meanwhile, over at Crikey, they are asking people to come up with an appropriate form of words for the apology. Miss Eagle has contributed and here it is:

Saying sorry is not just about an apology but a new beginning. When the first Europeans settled here, they did not recognise - as we have difficulty recognising for ourselves to-day - the depth and extent of their ignorance of this land and its people.

The Bringing them Home Report has confronted us with the worst of our treatment of the Aboriginal nations of this country - our treatment of their, our children. At the same time, at this point in history we are confronted in so many ways by our poor treatment of this land.

So to-day is our sorry day. The day to say formally, humbly that we - the newcomers to this land we know as Australia - are sorry. We are sorry for what we have done. We are sorry for what we have failed to do.

We want to-day to be a new beginning: a new beginning in our relationship with you, the people who were here for time beyond memory before the rest of us came and a new beginning in our relationship with this land. We hope you will accept our words of apology and begin the new journey with us so that together we can build a new hope, a new equity, and a sacred trust for our land.

Patricia, I don't know if this says what you would want it to say. I don't know what the negotiation position of Aboriginal leadership might be. I have tried to speak from my heart. I have tried to speak succinctly - which can be difficult for me! I also think short might be better - because then every Aboriginal organisation might be able to frame it and hang it on the wall (that is if what is said is of value to them).
I am no Don Watson. I don't know who is the wordsmith for the apology. I do hope, however, that attention is being given to the words so that they become as memorable as some of Watson's speeches for Paul Keating - the Redfern Speech, and the eulogy given at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This apology should be so simple, so beautifully drafted, and so worthy of landmark status that it can be learned and recited by children in school.
Next Wednesday is an opportunity - not just for an apology to and for the Stolen Generations. It is an opportunity to put things right in a symbolic and meaningful way. It should put to bed the recent History Wars and accusations of a black armband view of history.
But it should go further than that.
If it could ever happen, it would be good to be able to draw a line in the sand for all that has gone before 10am on Wednesday 13 February 2008. It would be good for every one of us to say we have learned a lot about ourselves since 1788. We face that self-knowledge with great humility and responsibility. We have much yet to learn but we want to learn moving forward together. We don't ever want to repeat the mistakes and ignorance of the past. Above all, the children of our nation -whoever they are - should never be held to ransom for our misdeeds. Our life on this continent won't be happy-ever-afters but we can realise we are all part of one nation - its joys and its tribulations - and we can communicate with each other in care, equity and respect.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Seasons of the Soul: Ash Wednesday 2008


I draw aside to-day:
into the quiet, the reflection
of the pool of life.

I watch the disturbance,
the stone of my being
cast into the timeless pool…

ripples moving outward
from the centre
of the sunken stone…

circular disturbances
of small circumference
enlarging to a fading edge.

The rippling of my life
is energy into stillness
moving beyond its entry point.

The ripples, equilibrium disturbed.
The still centre sinks
under the surface.

Rippling circular to centre.
Never a straight line,
never trajectory altered.

The disturbance continues
Until, far from its centre,
it ceases.

Brigid O’Carroll Walsh
Ash Wednesday 2008
6 February 2008
© 2008