A stepping stone to 'healing of nation'
11 Feb, 2008 07:30 AM
Mark McMurtrie hopes this week's apology to the Stolen Generations is just the first step to a broad-ranging apology to Aboriginal people.
He and wife Rose have come to Canberra to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's historic words on Wednesday.
They travelled 1000km from Broadwater in northern NSW, arriving in Canberra to set up their tent at the Aboriginal tent embassy yesterday and are expecting many more people to join them.
The tent embassy is expecting an influx of visitors to listen to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations at 9am on Wednesday and is asking for donations of tents, food, bottled water, blankets, towels and wood to be dropped off at the site.
Mr McMurtrie said it was important the Australian Government apologised for "the theft of people from their families and for the destruction of Aboriginal families in the manner that they did".
"If it is done properly and followed through, it can be the cornerstone of the healing of this nation," he said.
Mr McMurtrie said because of his light skin, it was only when he told people that he was Aboriginal that they began treating him differently.
"That indicates that there is underlying prejudice in the community that has to be removed."
Wednesday's apology could also be a "stepping stone for a real apology".
"By real, what I mean is an encompassing apology, instead of an apology to a small section of our community, because there are other policies that the Australian government has levelled at our people that need addressing, issues like their policies of allowing mining to be conducted against our will on our lands. The theft of our natural resources and the lack of reparations. The list goes on and on and on," he said.
Mr McMurtrie is also part of a group that is planning to take legal action against Britain and the Queen in the European Court of Justice over the occupation of Australia.
He said there was no legislation allowing Britain to take Australia from Aborigines and would be arguing for compensation from the British and for recognition that Aborigines retained sovereignty.
"The one big thing though is that when we do take back possession of Australia, we will not be seeking the removal of anyone from their land, because they have paid for it, they have bought it in good faith."
"When as a young child she was taken, stolen, from her family and her community and in her case, taken away at the age of three or four, never saw her mother again because by the time she was allowed to go out and find a job at the age of 16 her mum had died.
"Those stories are writ large across the country and they are the source of enormous pain ... I think the challenge for us who are non-indigenous Australians is to ask one very simple question: What if that was me? How would I feel?"
Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott said the Coalition would support the apology, "but in our remarks we will be true to the real history of our country".
"I think there were good intentions at the top level, but good intentions don't always translate into good practice and I think there was an assumption a couple of generations ago that part-Aboriginal kids would be better off outside Aboriginal society. That was a wrong assumption ... ," he said.
"I think we can respect the good intentions of the people of those times while at the same time acknowledging the policy was wrong, and frankly the more enlightened people knew it was wrong even then and that is why we should apologise for it.
"... One of the things we will obviously be pointing out is the term Stolen Generations is misleading. Yes, some kids were stolen and that is shameful, but many kids were helped and some were rescued and I think we need to be honest about that."