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Former G-G reflects on apology -

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KERRY O'BRIEN: Former Governor-General and High Court judge Sir William Deane, long a passionate
supporter of the reconciliation process, was a close observer of proceedings in Parliament.

From retirement, Sir William rarely, if ever, gives interviews but he was moved to make an
exception today.

Sir William took time out from the reception in the Great Hall of Parliament immediately after the
apology, to talk with me this morning.

Sir William, how important was the significance of this day, as far as you're concerned?

WILLIAM DEANE, FORMER GOVERNOR-GENERAL: Well, so far as I'm concerned it's of immense importance.
And I think it's of immense importance to our nation too. In one sense of course we've only made up
the lost ground since Corroboree 2000 in Sydney where I thought we were on the pathway at last and
getting very close to reconciliation. And then things somehow went backwards and it's no point
going into detail about that. But this brings us back to the stage where we can really see and
appreciate the importance of the spiritual as well as the practical aspect of reconciliation. We've
again come to the stage where spiritually I think we're together, and now we can go on and start
doing something.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you believe in your heart that the sentiment that you saw expressed in the
Parliament today is a genuine reflection of the nation's mood? That this is a genuine window?

WILLIAM DEANE: I've got no doubt in the world that that's that. There are some people who can't see
the need for an apology, there are some people who will say, "Well, I'm not sorry, I didn't do
anything," and you can fully understand that. But the overwhelming consensus of our nation now is
we've reached the stage where we've said sorry and now we have to do something about it. We've lost
so much time but I personally think that really so far as the older generations of our Aboriginal
fellow Australians are concerned, there's not much we can do except help them in their lives and
help them in those aspirations they've still got.

But we are at the stage where we can focus on the young. That was the message of course of the
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, education is the key and I was very, very pleased today to
hear the Government say they're going to focus on the young and do everything that can be done and
hear the Opposition say that they are going to support the Government in its efforts to finally get

When we reach the stage where, as I said years ago in the Lingiari lecture, our children's hands
can touch in terms of there being no great gap between them, then we can really sit down and say
we're reconciled.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What were your emotions today, sitting in the midst of that bipartisan atmosphere in
the Parliament?

WILLIAM DEANE: Well, they were of a variety of emotions. One is I was sitting next to Professor
Wilson of RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), who is the son of my great friend the
late Sir Ronald Wilson, and I was thinking Ron would be in tears if he was here. But my primary
emotion was, "Thank God we've reached this stage." But we've all got to realise this is but a step,
an immensely important step towards finally reaching the end of the road.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And a moment not to be lost.

WILLIAM DEANE: Well, if we lost this moment, really, 50 years time we will all, well I won't be,
but those who are alive will be all back here saying sorry again.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Sir William Deane, thanks for talking with us.

WILLIAM DEANE: Thanks, Kerry.