Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Australia Unwilling to Apologize

As a step toward reconciliation with indigenous people, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced that he is committed to formally recognizing the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as citizens in the Australian Constitution.

In his remarks, Howard stated that he has "always supported reconciliation but not of the apologetic, shame-laden, guilt-ridden type." He went on to say that millions of Australians "don't believe there is anything to apologize for. They are sorry for past mistreatment, but that is different from assuming responsibility for it."

Australia’s indigenous leaders appear to welcome Howard's gesture, but some say that without an apology there will always be "unfinished business."

Howard, however, disagrees. “So much of the dialogue in the past has been based on apologies and shame and guilt, and it won’t work if people see that as the way forward,” said Howard. “That is the old paradigm, that is the old order.”

In reality, Howard’s approach may not be the way forward. In fact, according to Aaron Lazare, “where there are no apologies, reconciliation is unlikely.”

Moreover, Jason Edwards argues that true reconciliation involves an apologia process of remembrance, reconciliation (identifying the victims and pledging to make amends), mortification (expressing remorse and asking for forgiveness), and atonement (or some form of corrective action).

Based on this, it appears that Howard is actually willing to acknowledge the past wrongdoing, identify indigenous people as victims, and even take corrective action by finally recognizing them as rightful citizens of Australia. However, he is unwilling to express remorse or even consider asking for forgiveness.

It makes one wonder why a person or group would acknowledge a wrong and take corrective action, if in fact they really "don't believe there is anything to apologize for.”

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