Why the Stolen Generations compensation package is a step in the right direction: editorial

THE premise was pure genius: six celebrities with little or no life contact with Aboriginals thrust into the heart of Indigenous Australia.

First Contact, on SBS this week, forced the celebrities – and, by proxy, viewers – to confront their own prejudices through lived experience.

It was compelling viewing, even if it followed a predictable reality TV narrative: the “lefties” are exposed to be a touch naive and the conservatives are exposed as uncaring and unthinking but ultimately have their eyes opened.

It might be cliched but it’s no less true – until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you have no right to judge them.

How many people in Wagga have thrown off the cloak of racism and really tried to understand Indigenous culture and history?

How many of us have tried to separate cause and effect on the issue – the cause (at least in part) being a displaced race thrust into a hostile and unfamiliar world; the effect being rampant crime and dysfunction.

This should not be a left versus right issue.

It should be a human issue.

Reconciliation is too important to be fought on the battleground of culture wars.

Kevin Rudd’s historic 2008 apology highlighted the shades of grey in what to many was a “black and white” reconciliation debate.

But it’s what comes after sorry that matters.

The state government’s announcement on Friday it would offer financial compensation to survivors of the Stolen Generations is meaningful on both a real and symbolic level.

The Stolen Generations mark a shameful period in our history.

The policy may have been benign in intent, but it’s impact was profound and continues to reverberate today.

The time lost between family members is something that can never be replaced.

It’s not simply history, not something affected Aboriginal people should “just get over”.

And it's not ancient history – removal of children happened as recently as the early 70s.

The mealy-mouthed and vague expressions of regret from the Howard government only deepened divisions.

All Australians, black and white, are connected by a common thread of humanity and a shared nation.

Some of us can see that, others can’t.

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