The Guardian 30 January, 2008
Waiting for an apology:
Hundreds will put pressure on Rudd
Christine King is not taking any chances. She plans to travel to Canberra with her elderly mother — a member of the Stolen Generations — for the first sitting of Parliament next month just in case Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says sorry.
As the Indigenous co-chair of the Stolen Generations Alliance, Mrs King has been waiting a long time for the apology promised by the new Labor Government.
But her mother, Lorna Fejo, a Warumungu woman from the Tennant Creek area of the Northern Territory, has been waiting much longer.
Now in her 80s, Mrs Fejo was taken from her community as a four-year-old child, put in the Bungalows at Alice Springs, and eventually placed at the Croker Island Mission, in the Northern Territory.
Her name was changed, she had to wear European clothing for the first time, and gradually her links with her culture were diminished.
Of course, Mrs Fejo was not alone.
"My father was a Larrakia man whose oldest sister was taken away, as well as his mother," Mrs King said.
She said thousands of Indigenous Australians around the country were waiting for an apology for the treatment they received under past misguided policies of assimilation.
It is to those people that the apology means so much, Mrs King says.
"We believe saying sorry is very important … a lot of our old people are waiting to hear that word. It will give them closure and allow them to move on," she said.
Mrs King said the recent calls for compensation should not muddy the issue.
She said the Stolen Generations Alliance had been working to find common ground with the new Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin.
And despite Ms Macklin last week ruling out compensation, Mrs King said she was confident that the new Government would soften its position.
Mrs King and her mother expect to be joined by hundreds of other Aboriginal people in Canberra for the first sitting of Parliament, following a rallying call by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition.
Meanwhile, Michael Mansell, the legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, has predicted that the Prime Minister will gain a commitment for a $1 billion compensation fund, despite Ms Macklin’s claim that compensation was not on the agenda.
"The apology is designed to help heal the wounds of the suffering by the victims who were taken. It clearly will not be enough to say sorry but in the same breath deny the victims any practical remedy. An absence of compensation is a contradiction of the apology.
"No-one suggests that people harmed in the workplace or in a road accident should be content with an apology without compensation. Why should it be any different to the victims of the Stolen Generation policy that caused irreparable harm?"
Meanwhile, the new government has so far been coy in providing an actual timeframe for delivering on its pre-election commitments.