• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Australia’s Finest Hour

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd went up onto the mountain and delivered. The first order of business, on the first day in parliament, of the new Labor government. Nothing would, nothing could, and nothing did take precedence over the apology. Kevin Rudd’s ‘Sorry’ to the stolen generations of indigenous Australians was social democracy’s finest hour.

It was long overdue. It was delivered after a decade of denial and delay by the previous John Howard government. Bringing Them Home, the report on the enforced removal of up to 50,000 mixed-blood children between 1900 and 1970, had recommended a simple but historic Sorry back in 1997.

We had to wait until now for moral leadership at the national level. It’s not to denigrate the man to say that never again will Kevin Rudd reach such noble heights. Rather it is to signal the sheer decency of his achievement. And he did it without flamboyance, but with a quiet, genuine eloquence. There was not a trace of grandstanding in his delivery.

There were tears in Kevin Rudd’s eyes as the parliament, the crowded gallery and huge crowd outside rose to give him a standing ovation. And there was not a dry eye among the thousands that assembled at the open-air broadcast in Eveleigh Street in the Sydney suburb of Redfern ­ Australia’s little Harlem. All over Sydney the Aboriginal flag flew from town halls, schools and even Sydney University two blocks from Eveleigh Street.

It was an Aboriginal moment in parliament too. It was their day and the symbolism of so many indigenous people in places of honour in the parliamentary chamber could not be missed. To reinforce the symbolism that they were the guests of honor, Rudd led the Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson and Jenny Macklin, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, up the stairway to meet and welcome them. Then Rudd received from them the ceremonial carving to mark the occasion and invited Nelson to the government side of the chamber to jointly present it to the Speaker of the House.

If the attempt to be inclusive is one of the trademarks of Ruddism, participatory democracy is not. Greens Senator Bob Brown’s point that an Aborigine should have been asked to respond in parliament to the apology was a fair one. But there was the practical difficulty of selecting one, as the previous Howard government had abolished ATSIC, the representative and elected body for indigenous peoples. In the best of all possible worlds, that would have been the body to approach for an Aboriginal partner in this day of reconciliation. The absence of any commitment by Rudd to resurrect a representative assembly for Aborigines is a real weakness, although he did promise a genuine partnership with local indigenous communities.

Part of Rudd’s triumph was to drag the Tories along with him in the apology. Nelson’s speech had some qualifications, reservations and gratuitous, even insulting, moments (the crowd outside grew restive and started to boo and slow clap and turned their backs to the giant screen, something the commercial networks, and even ABC radio, broadcast, but not ABC TV). Nevertheless, he did in the end join the apology. When Rudd reached across the dispatch box to shake Nelson’s hand, it was as though he was pulling him on board. The more backwoods MPs from the Opposition had boycotted the session.

For many kids this day will be like the day of the moon landing, or the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, or Che murdered, or JFK shot, was for previous generations; they will remember where they were if only because lots of schools watched the apology. It means these rising generations will inherit an Australia which has, if not a clean sheet, at least an honest one.

Yes, Rudd and his government have other mountains to climb, but at inspirational moments like this they have raised the hope, and more importantly the belief, that these mountains can be climbed too.

It was one of Australia’s best days.

HALL GREENLAND, a longtime activist based in Sydney, writes for http://www.homepagedaily.com

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail