Conference report 7: Witnessing to Hope, 13-20th August 2000, Caux, Switzerland

   
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Australia

This year Australia hosts the Olympic Games in Sydney. World attention is drawn to the plight of Australia's Aboriginal people. In 1997 an official inquiry exposed the suffering of 'the stolen generations' of Aboriginal children. The following year, hundreds of thousands of Australians from all backgrounds participated in a National Sorry Day. People of the stolen generations responded by launching a 'Journey of Healing', which is enlisting thousands in practical action to overcome the consequences of the forced removal policies. So far the national government, although regretting past practices, has refused to make an official apology.

Carol Kendall, an Aborigine of the Worumi Nation in New South Wales and an Advisory Committee member for the National Inquiry into the Removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families spoke at Caux: "We need international support to encourage our government to accept responsibility for actions of the past to ensure that Aboriginal people receive justice and basic human rights. We are dealing with the effects of the past governments' policies of assimilation and the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Many children were conditioned to think that their people and culture were dirty and evil, that we should never go back to our own people and culture. And many of us did not." She was taken from her own family and was the only child in her adopted family. At age 35 she found her mother and has since found out who her father was and who her many sisters and brothers are. Slowly the pieces of her life are coming together. "I came to a fork in the road of my journey. I could be a victim and be consumed by anger, resentment and blame. Or I could be a survivor, to work through my pain and continue my journey. I chose to be a survivor."

Tim Muirhead works on behalf of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, to support the process of reconciliation in the state of Western Australia. "My country is built on the dispossession of Aboriginal people. I and my people overwhelmingly enjoy the benefit of that dispossession. Carol, and her people, overwhelmingly bear the cost. In a nation whose standard of living is amongst the best in the world, that of Aboriginal people is amongst the worst. This is the simple impact of dispossession. Yet, the Aboriginal people do not ask us to leave. They do not use violence against us. They simply say - 'listen, learn, acknowledge, and work with us to heal the wounds of the nation.'"

"In a nation whose standard of living is amongst the best in the world, that of Aboriginal people is amongst the worst."

"I could be a victim and be consumed by anger, resentment and blame. Or I could be a survivor, to work through my pain and continue my journey. I chose to be a survivor."

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