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Sorry - Jeanie Richards

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
The right honourable Mal Brough, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs said SORRY there’s only one law for ALL Australians. We oppose the United Nations, we oppose the declaration, we oppose special treatment, we oppose saying sorry.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.
Sorry, a simple two syllable word, overly used and rendered meaningless. A word sought and a word withheld, a word that choked on a liberal tongue.

A word powerful enough to resurrect the rainbow serpent.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our national history.
They left a man in a cell on Palm Island  
They bashed a man, they left in a cell, in a jail, on Palm Island
They found a dead man in a cell, in a jail, on Palm Island
The court told:  he bashed himself to death, broke four of his own ribs and ruptured his spleen and liver.

Cameron Doomadgee was 36, swingin’ a bucket full of mud crabs and singin’ “Who Let the Dogs Out" when he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page, a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
On the 26th November 2004, Cameron Doomadgee’s autopsy results were released. 
Officer Hurley, coming in at a burly 115 kilos, fell onto 74 kilo Cameron whilst in the cells,
inadvertently causing the injuries.

No-one thought to say sorry.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
Cold blooded murder they cried and ran in unison to burn baby burn: the courthouse, the cells, the dog kennels.  Nineteen deported to Townsville, charged with arson, rioting and assault.  Nineteen missed Cameron’s funeral, the court would not allow it.  Hundreds of mourners walked the coffin the couple of kilometres to the graveyard led by Doomadgee's 15-year-old son, Eric, holding a white wooden cross to place on his father's grave.

The nineteen who couldn’t go were sorry.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
Eighteen had charges dropped or acquitted.  One warned to discontinue his public appearances at rallies and marches and told to stop stirring up trouble.

He plead guilty and he wasn’t sorry.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
At the 2005 Coronial Inquiry into the death in custody of Cameron Doomadjee, the family asked that the deceased be referred to by his tribal name Mulrunji.
Coroner Barnes agreed, he also agreed that in a previous life, as head of the Criminal Justice Commission, he’d ruled on complaints about Hurley.  Barnes, finding nothing untoward, deemed the complaints to be unsubstantiated.  Barnes said sorry and disqualified himself.

A year later Coroner Christine Clements found Mulrunji was killed as a result of punches thrown by Hurley.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
Amalie was about 7 or 8 when her Mum started giving her Valium.  She was a koori from Mildura and her mother an exotically attractive quarter caste, fair enough to fool the white boys and quickly move them in as step fathers.  Mum had her fair share of problems: alcoholism, depression, manic episodes, aboriginality.  When the current boyfriend started showing signs of boredom, or of moving on, she’d bring in Amalie to liven things up.

John, Henry, Jacko, Steve, Bob and/or Phil enjoyed feeding the 8 year old alcohol and pills and got aroused watching her go down on her mother.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
Amalie adored her older brother Farren, who was also sexually initiated by his mother.  Amalie and Farren got drunk together, they shared secrets together, they had sex together, they loved each other and Farren protected her.  His first laggin’ was for smashing some whitey he found raping Amalie while Mum was passed out drunk.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
Amalie and Farren left and went to live under the Murray Bridge with the other kooris.  There she met and married Sam, there she had Sandawarra and Jindalee.  There the five of them decided to leave and go live with the Murri mob up north.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
They settled in Logan just outside of Brisbane.  Pretty hard for Koori to fit in with the Murri mob, pretty hard for quarter caste to fit in with full blood, pretty hard to accept you are aboriginal by degree, full blood when the law is involved, by percentage and birthplace within your own mob.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A hot-spot is a small area that has statistically significant high levels of crime relative to surrounding areas. The Gold Coast is Queensland’s top hot-spot and a burglar’s dream, transient visitors, open doors and fat wallets.  Sam and Farren were opportunists, they called themselves the ‘Black Spidermen’; they scaled tall buildings over 150 times and were arrested.
Amalie was contacted as next of kin and asked to bring in some court clothes for her husband and brother, the cops took her into an interview room where she was told
“If those black cunts don’t start co-operating they’ll be another black death in custody”.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. 
Have you ever heard about black deaths in custody? – if you’re an Aussie you must have.  If not, I’m not surprised, it doesn’t get much publicity.  From 1980 to 1989 there were 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody, leading to a Royal Commission in 1991 which promised change, which promised reform. In the next decade Aboriginal deaths in custody increased by 150%, and 22 years later it is still rising. Aboriginals are jailed more than any other indigenous people in the world. In the Northern Territory, Aboriginals make up 30.3% of the population, but 82.3% of the adult prison population and 96.9% of the juvenile detainees. Australia is sending Aboriginal adult males to jail at five times the rate South Africa was imprisoning its black adult males towards the end of Apartheid; in Western Australia the figure is eight times the rate.

Aboriginal men are locked up more than any other mob in Australia, mostly for drunkenness, failing to pay fines, not carrying the correct identification, not getting a pass from the governor, not being white.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
In 1983, off duty police officers in a remote town in WA, started racially abusing Aboriginal patrons at a hotel, sparking a brawl outside. 16-year-old John Pat stepped in to help his mate and was punched in the face by a police officer, kicked in the head after he fell and dragged to their waiting van. The forensic pathologist, reported that John died of multiple injuries, suffering at least ten blows to his head and the half a dozen bruises above his right ear led the pathologist to conclude that John was little more than a punching bag. The bruises and injuries to the rest of his body were so horrific that his aorta was torn. One witness described the beating by police and said that when they were finished John was just “thrown in (the van) like a dead kangaroo”. An all-white jury acquitted the police of manslaughter charges and it was this action that sparked the movement against black deaths in custody.

Write of Life
The pious said
Forget the past
But all that I can see
In front of me
Is a cell door
a concrete floor
and John Pat

In 2008 an Aboriginal elder, Mr Ward, was driving on a remote, road in the West Australian desert when he was stopped by police and arrested for drunk driving. In 42 degree heat, Mr Ward was placed in a rundown van with no air conditioning and transported the 400 kilometres back to the lock up in Kalgoorlie. Despite knowing there was no air conditioning in the prisoner pod, he was never checked or let out for the whole 400 long, dusty, bumpy and scorching hot kilometres. Just before they got to Kalgoorlie, the guards heard a thump in the back and drove to the hospital. He’d been cooked to death, with severe burns from the hot metal surfaces in the van all over his body. 
In a discussion about Aboriginal rights following Mr Ward’s death one campaigner was told "I would have been concerned if it was a dog or some other animal who died in those conditions, but since it was only a black-fella …"

Three years later, Nina Stokoe was found guilty of failing to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the safety or health of another person through an act or omission at work and, by that failure, causing a third degree burn to Mr Ward and his death. 

In sentencing, Magistrate Benn was critical of the mitigating arguments put forward by Stokoe’s lawyer. “I’m not convinced she actually understands and appreciates her level of wrongdoing….Stokoe is most sorry about the effect this has had on her life, rather than the impact her wrongdoing has had on others”.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
Amalie was all too familiar with the Aboriginal deaths in custody and was scared stiff. They let her visit her brother and she could tell he was low, they let her visit her husband and she knew he wouldn’t last. They showed her the bruises, but she saw the shadow on their heart and the dark film cast by the prison walls. 

So she did a crazy thing, she told the cops it wasn’t Sam or Farren, it was actually her alone who’d scaled the high rise and robbed all 150 motel units. They took her for a drive and got her to point out all the motels she burgled. They just drove from motel to motel asking, “what about that one, did you do that one too?” Amalie kept answering yes to everything under the agreement that they’d let Farren and Sam go in exchange for her statement and confession. She had no idea which motels they’d done, she was 8 months pregnant at the time and at home with the kids. She was charged with something like 360 offences and of course they reneged. They didn’t let Sam or Farren go and now had three black bastards in court instead of two. She got something like 12 years in dirty and notorious Boggo Rd Prison Queensland. That was where I met her and she was my girl for a while……

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
Mulrunji’s only son, 18 year old Eric, was found hanged in Palm Island bushland on July 19, 2010 - it was said this occurred after earlier being taken for a drive by police.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
A brother who stabbed his violent younger sister during a struggle at a caravan park was jailed yesterday for 14 years for murder. Justice John Coldrey said the "spur-of-the-moment" stabbing occurred after Amalie Badenoch, 34, aggressively approached her brother Farren Deacon Badenoch, 37, near his home at the Sun Siesta Caravan Park in Mildura. Justice Coldrey said Ms Badenoch had been diagnosed with major depression and treated for drug abuse. Witnesses, including her mother, told the jury of her violent outbreaks. Badenoch was convicted by a jury of murdering his sister on March 1, 2000. 

In the Supreme Court, Justice Coldrey fixed a nine-year minimum term for Farren Badenoch, who sought help for his sister after the stabbing and regretted her death. 

***
and I’m sorry…

Contributor's Note

Aussie exile who has lived in NZ for the last 20 years. Studied Sociology/Philosophy at Waikato from 95-01. Returned to work at Waikato in 2012 where she has been dabbling in creative writing. Interested in social justice issues and prospecting.

 

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