Yesterday was Sorry Day, a day to remember specifically the past policies of the Australian government that led to the removal of children from their families. Have you ever received an apology that felt like it was just lip service? I have. It made me frustrated and left me feeling like the person giving it didn’t value me enough to understand why they were apologising. They wanted to move on and get on with it without acknowledging my hurt. It wasn’t a real apology, and they weren’t genuinely interested in righting a wrong. I’m sure you can think of a similar scenario from your own life. Needless to say, those relationships don’t get very far.
In my experience, true reconciliation has never happened without a heartfelt apology. An authentic gesture that includes the word “sorry” and is paired with a commitment to healing. But here is the crux of it – it is a commitment to healing, knowing that their healing may not be a process you understand, and certainly not one you can put a timeframe on. If you have ever had a significant physical or emotional hurt, you will know what this means. Some people just seem heal quickly and without complication, for others it can be a lifetime journey with multiple le setbacks. Healing is what it is.
Over the last few years Sorry Day has become a day to reflect on my own responsibilities when it comes to the healing of Australia. For many years I have had a mind frame that we need to move forward, there are tasks to be done, there are goals to be met, there’s a RAP to complete. We need all these things; I haven’t changed my mind about that. However, this sorry day I was privileged to be part of a group who got to “walk on country” on the land of the Quandamooka people as part of the Workforce Council’s Yarn Up Tok Blo Yumi program. We were led by Aunty Judy Watego and her daughter Wendy, and I reflected a little differently. We began to see a familiar landscape through the eyes of someone else, and shared stories of old times. We began to understand what brought us together, what things made up who we are.
What songs led you here? What are your stories about the earth, land, sea and wind? What are your ways of being, belonging, and becoming?
I realised in my rush to move forward I had forgotten to look back. Not in a way that only dwells on the horror of policies past -although I do believe that time to sit with that history is critical – but in a way that acknowledges who we are as a nation.
How did we get here? What does healing look like for us? How do we weave our past into the stories our children hear now, so that they too can be part of the healing?
What did you do this Sorry Day? I’d love to hear your stories!
If you are interested in starting a journey of reconciliation but need some help in getting started there are lots of places you can go.
- Your local elders or representative group
- Reconciliation Australia
- Workforce Council – Yarn Up Tok Blo Yumi
- There are many other places – your colleagues, families and friends might have some ideas too
I am a non-indigenous woman, born on Gangula land, raised on Darumbul land and living and working on Yuggera and Turrbal land. I acknowledge the hurt that has happened in these places. For children torn from the arms of their parents, and for families never again reuinited. For a nation still grieving these things, I am sorry. I’d like to thank Aunty Judy and Wendy for sharing Quandamooka with us yesterday – you helped me see things I didn’t see before.