Doug Steley’s letter in today’s Courier Mail, nails this issue in its stark simplicity:
If I say, "I am sorry your mother died", I am acknowledging a person's pain and suffering, not admitting that I am guilty of the mother's murder.
Saying "sorry" is an acknowledgement of past wrongs - nothing more, nothing less. Are we as a nation sorry for what has happened in the past to indigenous people? Or are we not sorry for what happened to them?
I, for one, am sorry that they have suffered. I wish they had not suffered and we had found a better way for our two cultures to mix and assimilate. If we say sorry to Aborigines, we start to admit we understand the pain our civilisation has caused them — nothing more, nothing less.
Those who say they are not sorry are saying they agree with the history of rape, murder and discrimination; those who say they don't know why we should say sorry after years of debate and discussion are just ignorant.
I’ve never understood why this symbolic exercise terrifies some of our politicians. Let’s get it done ASAP. The reluctance to say the word reminds me of a year five lad I taught in South West Queensland years ago. No matter what the incident, minor or serious, he would never say “sorry”. Turned out that he was quite severely physically abused by his alcoholic dad.
Perhaps there’s something equally dark hidden in the background of some of our ex-notables. The mind boggles.