Thursday, May 31, 2007

a decade without saying sorry

Saturday, May 26th, 2007, marked the tenth anniversary of National Sorry Day in Australia. However, those who have waited patiently for an official apology to Aboriginals from Prime Minister John Howard and the Commonwealth (federal) Government of Australia are still waiting.

Dawn over the 348-metre high, 3.6 kilometre long Uluru (Ayers Rock), which is a seat of deep cultural significance for the Anangu Aboriginal people and generally considered Australia's most famous tourist attraction. Photograph by Ayres no graces and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 License.

In Spring 1997, the damning conclusions of the "Bringing Them Home" report - which investigated the coerced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families in a misguided policy of assimilation that continued into the early 1970s - were released. Flatly denouncing Australian state, territorial and federal governments for what it considered genocide, the 689-page report attracted a flurry of media attention and became one of the biggest national stories of the year.

A total of 54 recommendations were tabled. These included the payment of reparations to victims, facilitation for rehabilitation and reconciliation, the observation of an annual "Sorry Day," and a simple apology from Australian governments and other involved agencies.

On May 26, 1998, one year after the report was presented to Federal Parliament, the first National Sorry Day was "celebrated." In a touching, grassroots display of compassion and unity, tens of thousands of Australians of all ethnicities came together in events across the country to acknowledge the harm inflicted on the Aboriginal people ...

Click here, for the full story at

Felix (a.k.a. me) is a regular contributor to Ethical Traveler, a project of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute.


  1. Nice! An excellent report piece.

    But, on a personal note, after having spent so much time living in Japan (where we say sorry for being in the right), I'm skeptical about how much an "apology" would really mean now...

  2. Thanks, -c! You make a good point about the Japanese situation. I wonder, though, if in Australia, where the Aboriginals have never received an apology of any sort, just one "sorry" from the Prime Minister might hold a little more meaning - because of, you know, call it the scarcity premium. Of course, whether such a symbolic gesture would translate into any kind of tangible positive change is open for debate ...

    Oh, by the way, the people are still looking for more newswriters and I think you'd be perfect ... so if you're interested let me know ...

  3. Nice one, Felix! Who knew a stone-cold news reporter lurked under that snoop-tastic exterior...

    Glad to see you in print again. May it be the first of many!

  4. great post! and that is so cool that you are writing for that travel magazine!!! :)

  5. Amanda ... thanks! I learned from one of the best ...

    Katie ... thank you! It is kind of cool, I just hope I can keep the story ideas coming ...