I am reading “Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia” by David Hunt. It is an irreverent take on our beloved land which possibly only an Aussie would pen. I have been surprised by how our early history was full of government approved, conniving scoundrels, as wicked as any portrayed in a wild western. Amid Hunt’s humour, it is difficult to read of the treatment of Aboriginal people. Hunt conveys with a dry irony the tragedy that has been our relationship with these first Australians.
I had that sense again as I listened at the Apology breakfast this week. The breakfast is run by Reconciliation South Australia to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. The morning conveyed the sadness and trauma of people’s loss. Reparation Scheme independent assessor John Hill likened it to the impact experienced by his father as a WW2 veteran. The morning also carried humour, hope, strength. Dr Jenni Caruso, an Adelaide University lecturer and a Stolen Generations survivor, has real strength. She was insightful, intelligent and very funny. The key note ‘chat’ with Uncle Jack Charles embodied resilience and pluck. His resume reads like none other. From homeless, thief, heroin addict, prisoner to venerated actor, the ‘grandfather’ of Australian Aboriginal theatre. All done no doubt with the cheeky charm I saw on stage.
We are living tomorrow’s history, today. The morning reminded me that tragedy does not have to be our shared story’s conclusion. To move forward with Reconciliation with first Australians, reparation is important, our listening to understand is important. The breakfast showed me what is of the highest importance. It is the courage, humour, hope, strength, grace of Aboriginal people themselves. For real reconciliation in our land we need Aboriginal people to do something we all find difficult, even impossible, when we have been profoundly hurt – forgive and move forward. I have the highest regard for the many Aboriginal people who are prepared to take that leap, for the good of us all.