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Saying 'sorry' is about understanding, not guilt

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Media Release

f 26 May 1998

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Saying ‘sorry* is about understanding, not guilt

People who cannot come to terms with the need for an apology to the Stolen Generations deserve sorrow, rather than anger, the ATSIC Chairman, Gatjil Djerrkura, said during a ceremony to mark the first National Sony Day.

“I wish to say sorry to all of those who cannot say sorry,” Mr Djerrkura said.

“I live in the hope that the events of this week may increase their understanding to a point that will enable them to do so.

“Sony Day is not about guilt. It is about understanding. For our people, saying sorry is simply a way of recognising another person’s suffering.

“Unless we acknowledge our past we will never be able to go forward as a truly united Australia.”

Speaking at today’s Honour The Grief ceremony in Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Djerrkura said the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report, Bringing Them Home, has been best described as the sorriest of sorry stories.

“It finally opened up one of the darkest chapters of our history to all informed Australians.

“They have reacted in their hundreds of thousands with humanity, with clarity and with courage. They have reacted positively as individuals, as state governments, as local governments, churches, communities and as organisations.

“It gives those who have suffered a small reason to celebrate.”

Mr Djerrkura also paid homage to those who campaigned against the forcible removal of children from their parents.

“Many Aboriginal people were resisting these policies in the late 1920s and early 30s. This is a fact which is rarely acknowledged.

“This early resistance led to the formation of groups such as the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association in NSW in 1925. It never gave up the fight.

“Its struggle should be a lesson to all of us who continue today the fight to fulfil our social and economic aspirations.”

Media contact: Brian Johnstone 0417 212 926 Martin Freckmann 018 631 045

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