Sorry Day 2013

31 May 2013

Sorry Day provides us all with an opportunity to once again open our hearts and mind to a greater understanding. This understanding does not only relate to the hurtful experiences of the past, experiences that created a great deal of suffering and deep trauma for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is also a time when we can reflect on how current views and actions continue the legacy of the past as well as creating new hurts and misunderstandings.

For those who have followed recent events relating to the racial slur against AFL footballer Adam Goodes, what happened reminds us of how easy it is to create deep feelings of hurt when our actions are insensitive and immersed in habits of the past. Adam Goodes was called and “ape” by a 14 year old girl. The aftermath of this event demonstrated how some Australians still don’t understand nor want to accept that such a slur is deeply offensive. Some have said Goodes has over reacted, after all, they say, people are called names every day.

What some people don’t understand is the history of our society is one in which Aboriginal people have been marginalised, mistreated and oppressed. Within this context, racial slurs reassert the oppression and separateness many Aboriginal people are attempting to leave behind. It is for this reason alone, and there are many others, such events are unacceptable.

Today’s commemoration of the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from the families and the trauma is a time when we can reflect on what contributes to our separateness and what can help us create a greater unity. Creating unity is largely a matter of the heart. No amount of intellectualisation will get us there. We cannot continue to rationalise and justify our individual positions no matter how logical they may appear to us. What is needed, if we are to achieve true social harmony is to accept our common humanity, open our hearts to one another and, irrespective of our race, meet each other as fellow citizens each with our own sufferings and joys.

Tony Pietropiccolo AM