Feature

Australia: It takes two to reconcile

To move beyond Australia’s colonialist past, we Aborigines must forgive.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine
The Sydney Morning Herald

To move beyond Australia’s colonialist past, we Aborigines must forgive, said Nyunggai Warren Mundine. Reconciliation “involves both the wrongdoer and the wronged taking steps toward each other.” White Australia has done that, to a great extent. The government made a formal apology for its early treatment of natives, and government and industry alike are “devoting substantial funds and resources” to promote health and education in the Aboriginal population. Racism isn’t entirely absent, of course, but it has been marginalized. When a black soccer player was heckled with racist taunts last year, for example, mainstream Australia rushed to his defense and condemned the heckler—in stark contrast to the shrugs that used to meet such conduct. Now it’s the turn of the indigenous to broaden our own outlook and question our own beliefs. Some Aborigines continue to look for slights, automatically assuming the worst of any Australian official and equating patriotism with racism. Yet rather than wallowing in anger over past injustice, wouldn’t it be more productive to take ownership of and pride in Australia’s success? The government can make all the “reconciliation action plans” it likes, but there will be no true reconciliation until “indigenous people are willing to accept the nation’s apologies.” Australia has spent lots of time on “the sorry part.” Now it’s time to focus on “the forgiveness part.”

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