Saying ‘sorry’ is just the first step

sorry in the sky

Sorry Day over Sydney Harbour (CREDIT: Butuba via

Thursday was National Sorry Day in Australia, a day to recognise all the damage done to Indigenous peoples of Australia since the arrival of the British in 1788.

I’ve witnessed people roll their eyes at this stuff before, and not only scoff but even protest against the welfare policies provided to Indigenous peoples today that give them assistance in housing and education, as if it’s somehow unfair.

They probably didn’t realise at the time that I am Indigenous myself.

Massacres of Indigenous peoples were still occurring well into the 20’s and 30’s of last century, often tacitly approved by–if not involving–law enforcement.

After being legally considered flora and fauna for over 100 years, they were only recognised as citizens in 1967.

Tens of thousands of children with mixed Indigenous/non-Indigenous descent were stolen from their families for ‘assimilation’, to absorb them into ‘white’ people while the rest were assumed to die out–and this was occurring until the 1970s, the decade before I was born.

This was not to be officially recognised by the Australian Government until the 1990’s, allowing for consequences to spiral further for another generation.

We are not talking about ancient history: we are talking about hundreds of people groups on this continent who have lost not only their land but their languages, culture, families, identity, and, for ninety percent of them, their lives.

This doesn’t just resolve the moment that the destruction stops, for there needs to be proactive help and reconciliation.

There are generations of Indigenous people today who have been severely disadvantaged from birth because their parents were severely disadvantaged and suffered greatly, and the problem has amplified.

Government assistance with things like housing and education is not only reasonable, but a minimum.

We are still a long way from an equal playing field. 

John Hanlen (one of the members of last week’s Moore College team, who spoke at our church last Saturday night).