“We cannot move forward until the legacies of the past are properly dealt with. This means acknowledging the truth of history, providing justice and allowing the process of healing to occur.
We are not just talking here of the brutality of a time gone by – though that was certainly a shameful reality. We are talking of the present, of the ways in which the legacy of the past lives on for every single Aboriginal person and their families.
It is time for non-Indigenous Australians to turn their reflective gaze inwards. It is time to look at non-Indigenous privilege – and to ask the question: ‘What was the cost of this advantage – and who paid the price?’
As former Governor-General, Sir William Deane, said in 1996: ‘Where there is no room for national pride or national shame about the past, there can be no national soul.’
…Only by understanding the truth of our past can we find a way to go forward. For the past permeates the present. The past shapes the present. The past is not past.
…Encouraging reflection on the past is not intended to promote a wallowing in guilt. Guilt is a very unproductive emotion. Guilt cannot prise itself away from the past. Guilt is stagnant. It inhibits optimism and it inhibits action.
There is an important distinction between shame and guilt. As a nation we can feel collective shame and collective sorrow, and we can take collective responsibility for our nation’s past.”
Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE
Patron, Reconciliation South Australia
30 November 2007