Crikey didn’t need to do a vox pop about Sorry day — our readers sent us their thoughts throughout the day. Here’s a selection.
Alan Hatfield writes: At last, a Prime Minister who sounds like a Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd said all that he needed to and could be said this morning. He certainly spoke for me and I suspect many other Australians. Apart from the very important foreshadowed action on health, housing, education, etc by the bi-partisan commission the next immediate and important step is to nominate 13 February as “Reconciliation Day” (whether it is made a public holiday or not) and then to consider seriously moving Australia Day from 26 January (Invasion Day) to 13 February (Reconciliation Day). What a way to commemorate a “new beginning” for our nation!
Wendy Harmer writes: My most intriguing moment from yesterday’s telecast? Watching Joe Hockey, sitting behind Brendan Nelson, whisper “standing ovation – pass it on” just as Brendo was finishing his speech. The time between Brendan pausing to contemplate his own magnificence and Joe jumping to his feet to express his undying loyalty to his future career was an indecent one indeed. “Bee’s d-ck” doesn’t do it justice. I feel a whole measurement of time must be found. How about a “Nelo-second” or a “Hockey-tock”? In any event, the grand-standers are destined to be long-forgotten when our descendants read about this day for years to come. And in the entire sweep of Aboriginal history, Hockey should know his effort was nothing more than the fleeting buzz of a blowie on a wallaby carcass. Congratulations to Prime Minister Rudd for his remarkable words yesterday. Our family was grateful for, and humbled by his sincerity. He expressed our sentiments perfectly and, yes, there were many tears shed in this house as well as in the big one in Canberra.
Mike Smith writes: The last time that I witnessed the same pervading censorship in society was the day Lady Diana died. On the day Lady Di died there was no scope for any rational analysis of what had happened or the kind of life that she was leading at the time. She was the “people’s princess” on a pedestal, and nothing else was permitted. It is no different with yesterday’s “Sorry Day”. A so called democratic society where such crushing censorship exists is a poorer one.
Margaret Bell writes: Prime Minister Rudd behaved like a true Statesman yesterday. He made me feel proud to be an Australian, a feeling I have not enjoyed much over the last decade. He afforded dignity and truth to our first nation the Aboriginal People. It is a wonderful thing to have lived to have seen true acknowledgement of wrong doing and a genuine expression of desire to heal and go forward together. A great day for those who have waited so long to hear that Australia understands what was done to our indigenous people and is sorry for it. It is also a great day for all other residents of Australia because it has marked a moment of truth for all Australians and afforded an opportunity for us as a people to hold our heads up, to say we are indeed sorry for what has been done to our brothers and sisters and to move forward together now. A nation, a very young nation, is growing up, we have seen the signs of maturation and we can be as proud of our people as a family is proud of a young adolescent who does something fine and mature.
Atticus Black writes: I felt proud yesterday to be Australian, of the words Rudd spoke on behalf of our leaders, past and present, and on behalf of the words Rudd spoke for us, the people. There was one point though, that stopped me during Rudd’s story, and that was when he described closing the gap between different groups of Australians by improving access to education. While I fully support a full and rich education for every person, I think that we need to most carefully consider not only what the concept of education entails, but what the foundations of that education might be built from. The PM mentioned that all Aboriginal children from the age of four would be enrolled in pre-school, and would be taught to read and write. Who will teach them? What will we teach them? Will we teach them the stories of the land, and the languages of their ancestors? Will we teach them the shifting patterns of the seasons, the connection between these and sources of food and water, the relationships and responsibilities between people and place? Will we teach them to read the skies, the ground, and the winds? Will we try and teach them what they already know, and what we, in our clumsy scientific way, are only just beginning to glimpse? We can perhaps humbly offer what goodness we can of our own learning – which doesn’t particularly loom large considering the state of the western world. But to consider that “our” concept of learning and knowing is paramount, that we have the imperative to confer our teachings as if superior is both ignorant and a continuation of the prejudices and problems of the past. Together. Shared wisdom with a shared vision.
Tony Papafilis writes: All too often, our Parliaments resemble parallel universes with MPs disconnected from planet Earth. Today was one such day. Reaction to Nelson merely confirms this has nothing to do with humanity and all to do with sustaining the left’s ugly race politics.
Cathy Bannister writes: Can’t you just feel the windows open and the fresh air come flooding in! Rudd’s speech was everything it needed to be: simple, honest, profound, heartfelt, and above all, truthful, and haven’t we all craved truth! Only the most damaged could fail to be moved. It was a shame that Nelson had to muff it by trying to play to his support. He ought to realise by now that after 11 years of bull, lies and lawyerly evasions that we can pick a dog whistle a mile off, and his speech was stacked sideways with them. However, Nelson’s sorry speech was a small jar on a wonderful day. Listening to Rudd as I drove the kids to school (we were deliberately late so that they could hear it too); I had tears streaming down my face. For the first time in many, many years, I feel I can be proud to be Australian.
Ray Edmondson writes: Of the many images that will symbolise yesterday’s apology, the most striking – to me – were all those empty seats in the Opposition benches. Am I being unfair? Perhaps there’s a lot of spare room on that side of the house. Or did many Coalition MPs choose to absent themselves from yesterday’s historic proceedings while the rest of the nation was deeply involved?
Justin McMurray writes: Finally we can all unite on one thing. That Brendan Nelson’s speech was perhaps the worst ever in Australia’s political history.
John Craig writes: I note that after the delivery of his apology speech, Brendan Nelson was jeered by those assembled outside Parliament and in other venues. Also, senior staff from Mr Rudd’s office may have had the leading role in encouraging members of the public to turn their backs on Mr Nelson. This may have undone the noble aspirations of the day. Mr Rudd personally did his best to create a bipartisan consensus. He did everything possible to bring the Opposition on board. Mr Nelson then said “sorry” from what might be described as the viewpoint of middle Australia. Things were going well. Then those assembled outside Parliament House and elsewhere presumably undermined the enthusiasm of Middle Australia for Mr Rudd’s initiative by rudely turning their backs on and jeering at the Opposition leader. Mr Rudd still has a lot of work to do to build consensus and bipartisan commitment.
Vincent O’Donnell writes: Why, oh why, was the preamble to the long awaited apology spoilt by a clumsy George W. Bush tautology? Where else can the nation be “moving forward” to but “the future”? When will speechwriters and politicians realise that saying something twice does not make it more true?
Lynn Good writes: Hats off to Brendan Nelson, whose exhibition of mean-spirited dog whistling was worthy of the departed Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd’s stinging backhanders to both were scarcely needed.
And then there is this: