National Apology to Stolen Generations by Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister of Australia called a nation to account for wrongs past and to turn the pages over together as an act of reconciliation.
This speech took the form of a collect, a Christian tradition where there is the open address to the higher form (in this case the Parliament, not God), then an attribution to the Parliament’s (not God) place and agency to act, then a petition, an explanation of why the ask and finally a conclusion. When I heard the apology, the familiarity of the form gave me reassurance, knowing the steps makes it easier to do the dance. I love the place of a petition or litany, the call and then the response becomes predictable and grows with authority each time. We are sorry. We are sorry. We are sorry. But are we sorry enough?
When we are truly sorry, we seek restoration and try to restore balance. It is not a matter of just saying sorry.
To transcend sorrow
go deep first
plumb the dark places
lift heavy stones
slide into nooks and crannies
find the hurt that doesn’t want to be found
taste the bitterness of sinister deeds
give benevolence a new name.
There is a lot more Sorry business to be done before we, as a nation, can be truly sorry for the 50,000 children taken from their families. The commitment to have four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal communities enrolled in and attending a proper early childhood education centre or opportunity and engaged in proper pre-literacy and pre-numeracy programs, made at the time of the Apology speech is still not fulfilled – we are not yet truly sorry. The commitment to embrace a systemic approach to build future educational opportunities for Indigenous children to provide proper primary and preventive health care for the same children, to begin the task of rolling back the obscenity that we find today in infant mortality rates in remote Indigenous communities—up to four times higher than in other communities – still unfinished business – we are not yet truly sorry. The gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is still there 69.1 years for Aboriginal males—10.6 years lower than for non-Aboriginal males (79.7 years) 73.7 years for Aboriginal females—9.5 years lower than for non-Aboriginal females (83.1 years). We are not yet truly sorry.
Sorrow holds us in place so we might be healed, allowing tears and aches to work their way through the body and then exhausted, there is a kind of expiration that signals the start of something new. Only when that moment comes are the labour pains over and the birth of a new possibility or relationship can emerge and inspiration can find a home.