Anyone who has ever had an argument would attest that there can be value in offering an apology even though you don’t really think you are completely in the wrong, just to get things back on track. It might be a valid strategy in relationships but I am not sure if it should apply to the running of the country.

Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

Australia took a long time coming around to the question of an apology to the stolen generation. It was a moment I supported as the practices covered by that apology were not just endorsed but in many cases devised by the Commonwealth and States, with the added insult of being perpetrated against people who had had their nation pinched off them. That apology had meaning and depth in my eyes.

Tony Abbott, hardly a bleeding heart, put a solid conservative argument in favour of its delivery, saying it could help Australia draw a line under a difficult part of its history, whatever the arguments about its extent or intent, and let us all get on with life.

The state-based apologies to the victims of forced adoption are in a similar boat. The laws which forced mothers to give up their kids were mandated by statutes across the country, and various State Parliaments have now formally recognised those practices as both illegal and unethical. Fair enough, I guess.

There was another apology this week which left me confused, and kind of annoyed. It could possibly signal a slide into full-blown sorry-mania, where the issuing of apologies is rendered meaningless as every aggrieved group, however legitimate its grievances may be, gets its very own sorry day from the nation’s Parliament.

The other troubling feature of this apology is that it involved practices which were not the result of government policies, such as those listed above, but were often in direct breach of the law, and carried out by people who just happened to be public servants.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith rose on Tuesday to apologise in obligatory hushed tones to the victims of sexual abuse within the Australian Defence Force. Smith is someone for whom I have a good deal of respect, as he has methodically and effectively taken on the deplorable little brass-buttoned boy’s club that covered up the abuse for decades. The victims of this bastardisation deserve nothing but sympathy. More importantly, they deserve justice.

But I really wonder whether this pro-forma parliamentary apology has any sound basis in logic, and whether it lets the people who should really be apologising off the hook.

Firstly, nothing that happened within the Australian Defence Force Academy was Stephen Smith’s fault. Secondly, none of it was your fault, nor was it my fault either. So why should the job fall to our elected representatives, people who had absolutely no say over the running of these abject military institutions, to be the ones who are saying sorry?

The DLA Piper report which examined the culture of abuse within the ADF found cases tracing back to the 1950s, and many recent cases including 24 allegations of rapes from the 1990s which were never brought to trial.

The report said in part: “It is possible that male cadets who raped female cadets at ADFA in the late 1990s, and other cadets who witnessed such rape and did not intervene, may now be in middle to senior management positions in the ADF.”

These are the people who should be apologising, ideally while giving evidence in a military court as they are about to get court-martialled.

A few journalists I know wrote about the ADF abuse scandal earlier this year, I did a couple of columns on it myself, and while there is normally nothing unwelcome or surprising about robust feedback from the readers, the nature of the responses on this from many military men was beyond degenerate.

I have still got emails I received from back in June from blokes describing the female soldier who was secretly filmed having sex as a dirty slut, saying it was her fault that her sexual encounter was beamed via Skype to other trainee soldiers. It is caveman stuff, and these cavemen were probably all having beers together in Canberra’s inner-northern defence suburbs on Friday night and laughing about Stephen Smith and his ponsy apology.

The other danger with apologies is that they can be seen as the end, when they should often be the beginning. An apology should not become a substitute for action. Look at George Pell at the moment.

Australia’s most senior Catholic clergymen feels deeply persecuted by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, and has argued that the Church has already apologised, as if that should be the end of the matter. Apologising is easy compared to the more important business his Church should attend to – which is coming to grips not just with the extent of the abuse, but the sinister infrastructure which exists within his organisation to keep it covered up.

As to the question of parliamentary apologies, I’d always assumed it was the job of Parliament to provide practical solutions to big problems. It should not be debased as some kind of venue for acts of confected national catharsis or feel-good posturing.

The most cringeworthy word in modern English is “closure”, an unwanted gift to us from the Californians, and if we are not careful our Parliament will look more like one of those excruciating Barbara Walters interviews, full of clichés about “moving forward” and lots of purposeful nodding as the victims du jour get their meaningless moment in the sun.

Earlier this year Independent MP Rob Oakeshott advocated a formal parliamentary apology to the Australian Olympic sprinter Peter Norman, the 200m silver medallist who was frozen out of future Games after supporting US medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium in Mexico City in 1968.

It was an inspirational moment, and Norman’s subsequent treatment was inexcusable, but I’m stuffed if I can see why it’s up to the Parliament to say sorry. At this rate by 2020 our MPs will end up saying sorry to those of us who haven’t received our apology yet.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • Gaz says:

      05:48am | 02/12/12

      Yeah that’s right.

      Hey isn’t ‘moving forward’ Julia’s phrase? Did she steal it off Barbara Walters?

      And Rob Oakeshott, what a joke that bloke is.

    • cheap white trash says:

      01:48pm | 02/12/12

      Come on Gaz you no it’s the right thing to do.

      I Apologize on behalf of Capt Cook and all who have followed,
      I’M SORRY…...

      Now that makes me feel real good….......WAW…...meaning WHAT A WANK.

    • Glenn says:

      07:34pm | 02/12/12

      The defence Force is not supposed to be made up of pussies. You weed out the crap before you go to war. You don’t like the training, you sure as hell aint going to like the real game. Say sorry all you like. Sorry for killing the Taliban, say sorry for killing the Germans and the japanese, just sure to be saying sorry when you have no defence force capable of defending you and you’re looking down the barrel of submission, or worse.

    • iansand says:

      07:08am | 02/12/12

      I can see a connection with ADFA - it is an arm of government and it is arguable that there was a failure in the way is was managed.

      But apologising for what the AOC did to Norman is just silly.  I suppose it is an attempt to siphon off a bit of the goodwill and respect the bloke has from most of us.

    • Jay2 says:

      07:15am | 02/12/12

      Great article David.

      Re: Stolen generation, it was disgraceful for the reasons and under the circumstances most were removed. However, I have also talked to some members of the ‘stolen generation’ who adamantly maintain if they weren’t removed and put into care, they wouldn’t have survived their childhood, because of alcohol and violence they were enduring.
        So in the meantime, we had the ‘stolen generation’ apology and here we have, I feel it is fair to say, a bloody disgusting large percentage of alcohol, sexual and physical abuse which permeates the indigenous community and children at the brunt of it.
      I wonder if the ‘stolen generation/sorry’  has now lead to a certain amount of fear which sees various Government services too afraid to intervene.  I know various welfare services at times have had apalling lack of action in abuse cases, but I can’t help but feel if the same situation were non indigenious on the same scale, there would be immediate removal of children at risk. In a way I feel the sorry and the sorry/stolen generation has virtually cursed the current generations with terrible political correctness.
      I can see a certain amount of terrible irony in that annually, my daughter’s school as a ‘sorry day’ assembley, in which indigenious children are given a $300 grant (with no specifications on what it should be spent on) which I’ve heard is promptly spent on x box games & alcohol.

      Catholic church,yes you nailed it David.  I feel George Pell has almost become more than irritated and an apology has been given so what’s the problem, time to move on people, attitude. I sit here shaking my head on that one.

      ADF. Damn, reading about the letter you received left me more than a little pissed off, of course to them she was a ‘dirty slut’, except if it was their sister, cousin, mother or aunt, then the bloke filming it would be the biggest, lowest arsehole on the face of the planet.  Apology yes, but what about finally changing a rotten culture that’s been thriving for how many decades?

      Anyway, I’ll step off my podium rant and lastly say “sorry” can be cathartic, but it it can also be misused for vanity purposes (see how wonderful and correct I am for apologising..); be insincere and in some cases, stifle progress.

      “Sorry” should NEVER mean a full stop to change.

    • wakeupcall says:

      07:44am | 02/12/12

      Funny, never heard PM Gillard say sorry for not providing compensation to the stolen generation. The U.K. stolen children are seeking compensation, the Catholic child abuse victims will be compensated. The ALP promised a no fault compensation scheme for the stolen generation (remember Kim Beasley weeping in Parliament?) but another broken ALP promise, that few journalists can be bothered writing about.

    • Toady says:

      08:19am | 02/12/12

      Jay2 - why are indigenous people, removed from their families to protect their health and welfare, classed as the ‘stolen generations’, yet non-indigenous people removed for the same reason not classed the same?  Forced adoptions involving unwed teenaged mothers - yes, that definitely fits the ‘stolen generations’ tag.  But removed on the grounds of protection from harm?  If the State has no business in protecting the welfare of children exposed to neglect or abuse, lest it be accused of ‘child stealing’, it has no business in protecting the population at all, particularly adults..  In which case, they should withdraw from our lives full stop, and stop the ‘nanny-state’ approach to governance.

    • jess says:

      10:22am | 02/12/12

      The stolen generation wasn’t at risk children it was children who were born to an aboriginal mother and European father (in most cases).many cases would have been pregnancy due to rape as well. the children were being brought up in a traditional life life their mothers culture. Remember also that that was against the law for aboriginal mixed race adult relationships until the 1960’s

    • Gregg says:

      12:00pm | 02/12/12

      ” Re: Stolen generation, it was disgraceful for the reasons and under the circumstances most were removed. However, I have also talked to some members of the ‘stolen generation’ who adamantly maintain if they weren’t removed and put into care, they wouldn’t have survived their childhood, because of alcohol and violence they were enduring. “
      Yes, there have likely been many indigenous children and non indigenous children too for that matter removed from family environments for their welfare or concern that appropriate welfare would not occur and that still happens courtesy of state child welfare departments etc. and who often get lambasted for not doing enough or for not doing something promptly to have protected children, a number of infant deaths making the media from time to time.

      So putting the stolen generation feelings another way Jay, you would have to say it would have been more disgraceful if children had not been removed and had suufered such mistreatment they may not have survived.
      Sure, there would have been all sorts of cases, some more so than others warranting action and do we not need to put into context the numbers of welfare officers available, the limited capacity to undertake individual detailed assessments and how that at the time needed to be weighed against the right of children to have a safe upbringing.

      You even look at the intervention policy the Howard government brought in for the NT and drugs, sex, alcohol and abuse of children is pretty much rampant in many communities, there being various state government reports over many years and not much action so full credit to Howard for doing what he could and that in the NT.

      If anything, time may show that there are many children to whom an apology should be made for not doing enough and sadly for some it may be too late.

    • Jay2 says:

      12:22pm | 02/12/12

      @Toady, I agree, no argument from me there. Your questions and statements to me are valid. Apparently the removal of children is given different labels, depending upon ‘race’. There it’s been said the dreaded “r” word!  grin
      The state does have a duty of care in protecting all children, but I feel are VERY reluctant too in cases of aboriginal children (for more than one reason) but because there is the “racist” & potential for ‘another stolen generation’ to surface, even if the removal of children is done for entirely different purposes. Still those children in the numbers that they are who are at risk, WILL NOT be removed, it’s the too hard basket for them, yet the sexual and physical abuse remains at ghastly high numbers within that community.

      Also, it doesn’t help that the latest philosophy from my observations, are the family unit (regardless of race) should be kept together. How else does one explain the advice to drug addicted parents from a key ‘welfare’ agency:  “Bath, feed and change your baby BEFORE taking a hit”. Seriously.
      Aboriginal foster children are mostly considered for placement with other Aboriginal families, but foster care is overwhelmed, especially limited with Aboriginal families. The whole state care and foster system has been in crisis mode for a LONG time, in my opinion.
      @Jess, yes those identified were removed, but then talking to quite a few “half castes” (their description), they felt in those days they weren’t particularly accepted in ‘white culture’ but were also discriminated in ‘black culture’  and in fact, from verbal statements, they had it worse within the black community, which shocked me actually. I’m sure they don’t presume to speak for everyone, but I can only go on what half a dozen have told me at different times.
      Also, from what I have been privvy too, it wasn’t just children with a white father that were removed.

    • Peter says:

      01:05pm | 02/12/12

      Wakeupcall: and when did the LNP ever say sorry?

    • PW says:

      01:21pm | 02/12/12

      “The ALP promised a no fault compensation scheme for the stolen generation (remember Kim Beasley weeping in Parliament?”

      I think you’ll find that the election this promise was made was won by the Liberals under Howard. Thus this promise was rejected by the electorate. It’s a bit rich to expect a subsequent Government to honor a promise made in a losing election campaign.

    • Jay2 says:

      02:12pm | 02/12/12

      @Gregg “So putting the stolen generation feelings another way Jay, you would have to say it would have been more disgraceful if children had not been removed and had suufered such mistreatment they may not have survived.”
      That’s exactly what I’m saying!

      I do, however, believe based on what I’ve been told first hand,that there were aboriginal children removed because of what I perceive racist reasons in those days. I also believe that it is not so pc to acknowledge children were ALSO removed because of what I feel are legitimate reasons, neglect and abuse.

      I also believe the Howard Government had at least taken the un-pc approach to tackle this. While it was not perfect, at least it was a start. I’m also the first to acknowledge this is a complex and exceedingly difficult issue.  If the government does something at the same time it is applauded and attacked by Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities alike.  It is either decried as a racist ‘white fella’ solution or given a ‘thumbs up but long overdue’, still bugger all really ever happens.
      One could literally write pages about this subject, but what I feel is that it is so easy to utter the word ‘racism’ and the ‘stolen generation’ is burnt into most people’s consciousness as a hideous part of history, so therefore it would be VERY easy for that term to be used if many Aboriginal children were removed from at risk situations and if anybody has seen such communities I’m referring too, it wouldn’t be just one or two children that I would deem at risk.  It’s bloody sad when you see kids slip into the cycle again and know there’s not a damned thing you can do about it . Again, yes, for me it is politically correct madness (and the financial commitment)that sees most not wanting to touch this situation with a ten foot pole, lest the pc bleeding heart brigade start up.
      I am careful to add that I am not saying that I am speaking about ALL Aboriginal communities, but even statistics, not just verbal assertions, will confirm that there is a big problem. It’s a vicious cyle that is given bandaid solutions time and time again. 
      Just as with Toady’s post Gregg, I actually agree with what you say in your post, no arguments from me, but I’m trying to limit how much I write about a complex subject.

    • Mongrel says:

      02:30pm | 02/12/12

      Jess : there’s never been laws prohibiting marriage between the races in australia. US (and other countries) yes, but never australia. You’re making that up.

    • Rose says:

      03:29pm | 02/12/12

      Gregg, many of the problems of drug and alcohol dependence are a direct result of the Stolen Generation. You are talking about an entire generation of children raised outside of a family unit and often in overwhelmingly cruel institutions. These children were then not loved or nurtured, they had no parental role models, many were sexually, emotionally and physically abused and generally treated as lower than second class citizens. Very few were taken into kind families and raised as loved and wanted children, most were taken into families more as slave labour than as children needing love, care and guidance. How the hell are these kids supposed to grow and be parents, they have no real knowledge of what parenting is supposed to look like, they are carrying their own demons afters years, and often, generations of abuse at the hands of the welfare workers. They have little trust in agencies that are meant to help them, why would they trust them, these are the very same agencies that were the perpetrators of the abuse they suffered as children? This is something that has been done to them, this is not their fault. If there is ever going to be real change, that needs to be acknowledged, you can’t overlook the damage done to Indigenous families and communities by the successive governments. Individual families were torn apart and so were entire communities. If they were left with their families and not ‘stolen’ you would see a very different, far more positive Indigenous community right across the board, of that there is absolutely no doubt!!
      As for Howard, he should be ashamed of the Intervention, and so should Rudd and Gillard for extending it. The Intervention is a paternalistic, racist and inefficient way to deal with the issues. A study was done that dealt with the real issues facing Indigenous communities, particularly child protection issues, and what did Howard do but ignore the considered recommendations of those that did the study and do what Australian governments have tried and failed at for two centuries, taking over and dictating to Indigenous communities, treating them as less than the rest of us. The Intervention has failed and has, in many areas, made the situation worse, how could it not? It is failed policy, it has no evidence base to support it and it is a return to the bad old days of paternalism and ignorance of Indigenous culture and needs. Once, just once, we should try something that has a chance, and we should revisit the recommendation of the Little Children are Sacred report and other similar reports, and we should try enacting policy with the best interests of Indigenous people as the priority and not enact policy simply based on it’s popularity within the generally ignorant white electorate!!

    • Gregg says:

      06:07pm | 02/12/12

      You make massive generalisations for not every aboriginal child of a generation or generations was removed and far from it, some areas of Australia affected very little in fact and then you have the situation where many removed were and are very grateful for the opportunities afforded to them in life and have not gone on to alcohol and drug dependence, there being many other issues creating that situation and yes many years on from the times when children were removed you have children being abused by both adults, indigenous and non indigenous and also by older children.

      It is a massively complex problem through indigenous and non indigenous communities as Jay has indicated and whereas in our non indigenous communities you have welfare and police etc. with problems still going on and the very reason there is now going to be a Royal Commission, indigenous communities are more on the fringe of our society, ( there actually a good book worthwhile reading called The Fringe Dwellers ) being many places that most non indigenous people would rarely if ever visit and having vastly different lives and not so much by way of welfare control or policing, all be it of likely different standards.

      The multitude of problems has long been recognised and yet you criticise any attempt to do something about some of them in just one territory of Australia.
      And so what would you do?, wave a magic wand!

    • Christian Real says:

      09:06pm | 02/12/12

      I disagree with the ‘intervention” brought in by the Howard Government upon our Aboriginal people because it discriminates against our people.
      Alcohol, drugs,pornography exists in all races,nationalities and exists all walks of life other then soley from within our Aboriginal tribes and Aboriginal people.
      The hurt and the traumatic effects inflicted upon our people by the British rulers that had overtaken our Aboriginal ancestor’s Country can never be completely erased or forgotten,the stolen generation, the seizure of Tribal lands and the displacement of our people,in their own Country and their own lands and for years and years denied the same equal rights as those generations that followed the original free settlers,soldiers and convicts that had arrived by the ships in the First Fleet and stole the Country and everything else that could be stolen away from the Aboriginals that were the inhabitants of this Country and lands.
      My own Grandmother and her sisters were in fact some of the children that were taken away from their natural parents and at the age of 14 my Grandmother was made a servant in a stately Engish homes hundreds of miles away from her family and relatives.
      Nothing can change or alter the past where our people were treated as second class citizens in their own Country.
      The Australian Flag is a constant reminder of the past because it still bears the English flag in the corner and I feel that Australia needs to move on ,Our aboriginal people need to move on and the only way to do that is to remove the English flag from the ustralian Flag and design a completely new flag that also embraces the original inhabitants of this country.
      Australia does need to become a republic and like other Countries that already has done so in the past, australia needs to break the bonds,the Apron strings that are keeping Our great Country shackled to England.
      On Australia Day I cannot wave the “Australian” flag because it does not represent me or our people while it has got the flag of another Nation, another Country adorning its corner and reminding me and others of our people how our Aboriginal ancestors suffered under the take over of their Country and Tribal lands by the British.
      It is time for healing, to address ourselves as a Country, a Nation in our own rights, to recognise that we are should move forward and removed all barriers that are preventing our Country from a reconcilliation that will unite our Country and all of our citizens together as one Nation, under one flag that we can all agree on.
      A flag that will be recognised Worldwide as a true emblem to represent our Country and our people.
      The song “I Am Australian (Bruce Woodley ,Dobe Newton that was written in 1987)  should possibly be made into our National Anthem as it encompasses and unites all Australians.

    • Toady says:

      07:15am | 02/12/12

      Keep the apologies coming thick and fast - after all, what else is a government there for if not to pander to people and suck up to the perpetually aggrieved.  Here are some suggested apologies:

      To the victims of Thalidomide - the federal government should have had the foresight to see the damage this drug would do to babies, and prevented it from entering the market.
      To the families of WWI enlistees, who lost their lives under stiff-collared pommie military leaders, who clearly valued their lives less than their own.
      To the families of criminals executed under the death penalty in Australia - a cruel punishment that was abolished for that very reason.
      To the victims of asbestos poisoning -  in hindsight, the government should have banned its use before it came into production.
      To the businesses who went broke in The Great Pink Batts Program, taken down by an incompetent government, incapable of delivering anything successfully.
      To the families of those who died in car accidents caused by drunk drivers before drink driving legislation was introduced.
      To the families of those who died in car accidents before seat belt laws were enacted.
      An apology from the hippie movement for inspiring the political outfit The Greens and by extension GetUp, and their brainwashing of impressionable young children into believing the world is about to end because carbon dioxide is a deadly gas.
      And finally, a personal apology from Windsor and Oakeshott for maintaining support for the most dysfunctional and dishonest government in Australia’s history.

    • Achmed says:

      08:34am | 02/12/12

      The there is an apology t
      To families of our servicemen injured/killed as a result of Howards ‘weapons of mass destruction’ lie.
      To the families of the women and children who died trying to get to Australia because TPV prevented family re-union
      To the families of those who died trying to get to Australia as refugees

      Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rapidly promoted by mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of sh*t by the clean end

    • Mouse says:

      08:44am | 02/12/12

      You are on fire today Toady! lol :o)

    • fzr560 says:

      08:45am | 02/12/12

      Would we be eligible for compensation from those last two dribblers?

    • PJ says:

      10:06am | 02/12/12

      To those Australians suffering hardship under the only and most expensive carbon tax in the world. SA say a 38% spike in Australian families having their electricity cut off.
      To the 12.5% of Australian children growing up in families where no one has a job.
      To the 21% of couples where only one member is lucky enough to have a job.
      To Australia for being promised there would be no carbon tax under a Gillard Government.
      To Australia for then promising you only wanted the big polluters to pay, but then extending that tax to every household bill.

    • Gerard says:

      10:10am | 02/12/12

      “And finally, a personal apology from Windsor and Oakeshott for maintaining support for the most dysfunctional and dishonest government in Australia’s history.”

      I also want one from every single ALP backbencher who continues to support this mob despite being just as capable of bringing down the government as the independents.

    • PW says:

      05:13pm | 02/12/12

      Gerard, why would ALP backbenchers want to bring down the Government????

    • Gerard says:

      06:55pm | 02/12/12

      Whether they would want to or not is irrelevant. What matters is that it would be the right thing to do in the national interest. ALP backbenchers are as much to blame for the current government as Oakeshott and Windsor, yet Toady is demanding that only the independents be accountable.

    • Duane says:

      08:02am | 02/12/12

      I see little value in constantly apologising for everything. Not only is it ultimately meaningless, but a fundamentally flawed politically correct guilt trip.

      The ‘sorry’ culture depends on judging history by present day standards. Any astute observer will recognise that those standards are in a fairly constant state of flux. What was expedient and acceptable 10 years ago is in many cases completely unacceptable now. Community attitudes towards smoking would be the best example I can put forward. Cigarettes were once promoted as a stress relieving treatment for asthma, and promoted in all the best movies. Who of us over 40 years old does not remember the Marlboro Man? Such a marketing concept would be unthinkable these days.

      I’ve no doubt that some really poor decisions were made by people (in general) in the past, and that very bad decisions will no doubt be made in the future. Instead of all the politically correct wailing and hand-wringing, why don’t we tackle the issue at hand? National ‘Sorry Day’ is a fine example of politically correct group-think that achieves absolutely nothing measurable. Symbolically walk back and forth across bridges for the rest of your life, and it will do nothing to change the day to day reality of the decrepit alcoholic day to day existence some aboriginal people live. Still, it’s easier to feel all smug and self-righteous after walking a couple of hundred metres than it is to actually examine, work through, and resolve the issues that lead to the afore mentioned tragic lifestyle. I have immense respect for the couple of social workers I know who do the real hands on work to try and resolve these problems.

      Grandiose formal apologies ensconced in wordy speeches mean nothing if there is no tangible effort to resolve the issue – what ever that may be.

    • PJ says:

      10:41am | 02/12/12

      The Sorry Culturalists drag us back, remind people of past grievances and mistakes and by doing so split them. They make everyone feel crap, divided.

      The Sorry Culturalists believe in the continuity of wrong doing. That you are part of and a participant in the objectives of youre Great Great Grandfather.

      The reality is most of us do not know whom our Great Great Grandfather was let alone being an advocate for his thought process.

      Not only that but for some 40% of us, our Great Great Grandfathers lived overseas.

      So it is a little off key that we should be required to participate in guilt and sorry sessions don’t you think?

    • OzTrucker says:

      08:04am | 02/12/12

      All these apologies judge the events of the past by the standards of today. It amazes me that we are bluffed into being comfortable with that. Pendo makes the point that he does not feel responsible for the events of the past. Neither do I, nor should anyone who was not direcly involved.

      I was at HMAS Leeuwin in 1979. I was 16 years old. I can assure you that the way the new grubs were treated by the more senior recruits and some of the training staff would be regarded as bullying or harrassment today. That was just the start of it.

      I have never made a formal complaint about my treatment while I was a serving member. I have not joined the throng to make a complaint in recent history because I can’t see the point. It will always be a case of he said she said and in the current environment people will be guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

      On another, but related, issue the recent award of an Australian honour on a foreign cricket player. I cannot see what Mr Tendulkar has done for our country (apart from making some of our bowlers look silly from time to time) I do not understand how he is deserving of the award. For me it’s just polititians trying to make themselves look good.

    • Richard says:

      05:30am | 03/12/12

      I feel the same way about my time at Army Apprentices School Balcombe in the late 1970’s. Some of the senior appy’s (apprentices) would have fitted well into the SS with very little training. Other things like the ‘Sprogs” having to warm up the toilet seat of the Senior Appys were not only tolerated but condoned by the staff (character building) . No, I don’t want an apology as it doesn’t really mean anything unless it is sincere.


      08:19am | 02/12/12

      Hi David,

      There are dark moments in all nations’ history, however does simply saying sorry for all the mistakes and wrong doings of the past make it alright? Absolutely no!  But it seems that there is so much to gain by simply apologizing which happens to be making instant headlines around the world to make our politicians almost look and act like true human beings. When we think about all the time spent on negative smear style publicity campaigns they seem to put up with, to me saying “sorry” could be the easiest thing to do for now anyway!

      And what else could they do really?  Somehow I feel that saying sorry constantly could get a bit tiring and boring at times.  So what to do?  May be at least act like we mean truly mean it by our actions rather than some totally empty and meaningless words.  For me personally some apologies can look so shallow that it has no true meaning and value at all.  As most of us like to believe that admitting that we were wrong somehow can be an instant ice breaker in our personal relationships especially, with a promise of a brand new beginning, maybe? 

      Other than that most important lesson in all this for most of us happens to actually learn from all those mistakes and not repeating them ever again.  And as always our past behavioral patterns will determine our future actions and decisions, whether we would like to believe that fact or not.  When it comes to all those child abuse cases in the Catholic Church and the Stolen Generation, I totally disagree with you on that it has taken so long to acknowledge the fact that there were grave injustices done to innocent children so long ago, no ifs or buts! 

      Just like you suggested saying sorry doesn’t serve any other purpose than simply winning a so called popularity contests in the world of politics.  I personally believe that saying sorry doesn’t bring back all the hurt and the pain caused to certain people. However at this day and age even the average male is being taught how to be a “new age sensitive guy”, it happens to be more about cutting our losses early on by giving us a chance and a promise to do things better some time in the future?  Or may be not! Kind regards.

    • Philip Crooks says:

      08:26am | 02/12/12

      Tony Blair apologized for slavery which ended in the 1800’s in the British Empire. Why?

    • thomas vesely says:

      09:04pm | 02/12/12

      so that you can not call the empoverishment of the middle/lower class
      any kind of enslavement ?

    • Fiddler says:

      08:32am | 02/12/12

      Can you please please please stop giving half truths about sexual abuse in the ADF? It is not investigated by the ADF, any report is forwarded immediately to civilian authorities who investigate and if they feel warranted prosecute the matter. There is this ongoing insinuation that someones CO sits on these reports going “we won’t be doing anything about that”.

      In my experience in the ADF any complaint of harassment or any criminal activity no matter how minor is treated far more seriously than in general life. I recall minor incidents where entire units were stood down from activities for days while things were investigated (far less serious than sexual assault too)

    • Bob says:

      09:43am | 02/12/12

      Well said Fiddler.

      “I have still got emails I received from back in June from blokes describing the female soldier who was secretly filmed having sex as a dirty slut, saying it was her fault that her sexual encounter was beamed via Skype to other trainee soldiers. It is caveman stuff, and these cavemen were probably all having beers together in Canberra’s inner-northern defence suburbs on Friday night and laughing about Stephen Smith and his ponsy apology.”

      Yeah, well done there with the ignorance there Peno. I was in Defence at the time this happened and what you just described came mostly out of other women’s ears when I heard it. “She knew what she was doing”, “She already has a rep, she’s a slut” and so on were the kinds of things I heard daily when I walked past women talking in the halls.

      Oh, and an apology from the Defence minister really doesn’t mean much regarding anything that happens in the uniform. No one in the uniform ever says sorry - if you want it to actually mean something, make one of the brass stand up and say it.

    • Haxton Waag says:

      08:51am | 02/12/12

      Corporate and government apologies only come when legal and financial liabilities have been minimised and the individual perpetrators are well out of harm’s way. That kind of apology leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

    • Bruce says:

      10:28am | 02/12/12

      Agree: Its much like corporate apologies. They tend to be meaningless and used a way of ending or reducing the impact of the issue at hand. I wonder what things our parliament will apologizing for in 40 years time as a result of bad decisions made today ?

    • Eda says:

      08:51am | 02/12/12

      Mr Penberthy

      ‘Earlier this year Independent MP Rob Oakeshott advocated a formal parliamentary apology to the Australian Olympic sprinter Peter Norman’

      No, earlier this year it was ‘MP Andrew Leigh (Fraser)’ who put forward the apology motion for Peter Norman.

    • Gerard says:

      10:20am | 02/12/12

      Well, Oakeshott did advocate an apology, however you are correct that the motion was brought by Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Of course David Penberthy doesn’t mention this as doing so would deprive him of the chance to kick Oakeshott.

    • Eda says:

      01:19pm | 02/12/12


      Thanks for your response.

      ‘David Penberthy doesn’t mention this as doing so would deprive him of the chance to kick Oakeshott.’

      It certainly appears that way.

      The Punch (which Mr Penberthy is the editor- in- chief) had the John Alexander (Bennelong) speech on Peter Norman posted here a few months ago, and did not even have the grace to mention Andrew Leigh.

    • hammy says:

      09:45am | 02/12/12

      Firstly, nothing that happened within the arrival of the First Fleet was Stephen Smith’s fault. Secondly, none of it was your fault, nor was it my fault either. So why should the job fall to our elected representatives, people who had absolutely no say over the running of these abject Aboriginal institutions, to be the ones who are saying sorry?

    • Tom says:

      10:29am | 02/12/12

      It’s really heartening to see a senior journalist so clued on to what can only really be described as an entrenched culture of misogyny in the ADF. I worry that as a public we can tend to forget about the serious problems inside the ADF in favour of feel good digger worship, so it’s great to see the media is capable of recognising the good as well as the really, really bad.

      The rapes and the suicides are still happening. It is amazing how well the ADF is able to keep them all from coming to public knowledge. The assaults are the product of an arrogant military culture that sees itself as an elite compared to and better than civilian Australian life. They denigrate civilians and women as ‘civvies’ and ‘sluts’ who do not belong to the military club.

      What is so infuriating is that these guys are all on the public dollar. The brass buttoned boys club, as penbo superbly puts it, are paid out of the commonwealth treasury to be some of the most unproductive public servants we’ve got on the payroll. They tell themselves they’re there for the defence of Australia to feel better about it, but really they are just glorified welfare cheats, and the gnawing reality that they contribute next to nothing to public life is compensated for by conceiving of themselves as a secretive elite better than the rest of us, as though it is their right to leech of the public because they could potentially go to Afghanistan to be shot at by poor farmers (and only a tiny proportion of them have ever been on deployment).

    • hammy says:

      11:47am | 02/12/12

      Are they misogynists when the victims were male?

    • Al says:

      12:14pm | 02/12/12

      Tom, I find your comments not only inaccurate, but disgusting. I am a civilian female who is also part of the Defence community, and I have never been made to feel like a ‘civvie slut’. The best people I have ever known serve in Defence, including many females who are quite happy to continually serve their country to protect our borders for people like you. No doubt there are a few bad eggs in the ADF - We had a paedophile and two stalkers where I work in a civilian workplace, so I guess that makes me and all of our civilian workers there paedophiles and stalkers too, right? I am also aware of several cases where Defence females have been assaulted by civilians. Stop judging the whole ADF by a few rotten eggs.

    • Warwick says:

      08:12am | 03/12/12

      Tom, you are right to point out that there are huge numbers of rapes and other loathsome forms of bullying that have come to light since the ADF have been subjected to investigation in the last few years. Some female members of the Armed Forces have taken sides with the bullies; maybe they themselves are so butch and ugly that even drunken sailors are repelled by the thought of having any physical contact with them. Or, to put it another way, bullies and rapists always have a preference for open and vulnerable young people as the victims of their malevolence.
      There is another aspect of this. If so many members of our armed services have shown themselves to be eager to abuse, torture and rape their “mates,” for whom they are supposed to be willing to die, how often do they bully and rape the local people in the countries where they are serving? How many people in East Timor have been treated as punching bags by these people? How many of the local women, there and in Afghanistan, have been raped? If the brass at home have been able to cover up this gross behavior they would certainly be able to keep the lid on any potential scandals abroad.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      11:15am | 02/12/12

      Well an apology is only as good as the amount of sincerity that is behind it. For instance while the Aboriginies got their apology which they wanted and the nation generally appauded it we weren’t able to give them the lands back. A little bit maybe but not the lot.

      My son was in the Navy and was bastardized. Nothing for him. No apology for him, he is amongst many. Armed forces, necessary, but should they be put on the pedestal of god head by the public. No i don’t believe so.

      Pell, corrupt religionists and cults, apologize. Should be closed down. A Royal commission into them may dig out a few weeds. Most of the weeds dead by now so they got away with it. But the Royal commission can’t stop the new wave of pedophiles that will come along. There has to be severe laws as regards this in the conduct of Religious Cults. It’s not just the Catholic cult it is within most of the Cults that have to be registered as religions with the Government. Take away their registration, that is the right thing, they are breakers of the law, not only the mans but the Gods as well. We don’t need them. They should pay tax.

      The Poms should apologize to all the young children that they worked like slaves to get their industrial revolution going and the ones that they put in mental institutions for life as they had no parents. Yes they talk about child labor, well, our society was developed from child labor, why do we have the right to criticize Asia for it.

      Apologize to the Convicts who started the Nations Building of the Cities, who lived like dogs in the Poms penal colonies. Starving to death in England, steal a loaf of bread, transported to Australia, the new colony. Basically a death march for them and flogged and beaten to death or executed for what were minor crimes of necessity.

      As one commenter wrote above, what about an apology to the stolen white generations as well. Aren’t whites equal to black people. Happened to us too, just as badly. But white people don’t count, obviously. Why is that.?

      Apologies might be seen to be good but it is only momentary because as we go on down the track there will be more injustice and because of that there will be more apologies necessary. It is a never ending quest. There will always be injustice, it’s the nature of the animal.

    • ChrisW says:

      11:18am | 02/12/12

      I am sorry but I object to anyone else “apologising” on my behalf for events over which I had no control and over which my ancestors had no control. Rudd’s “apology” was a political stunt. It has been followed by more political stunts designed to make some people feel good. It just makes me cringe. We would be far better off on concentrating on what is happening here and now - something we can do something about by demanding action from those we represent.
      The “stolen generation” was shown to be largely a myth. Now we allow twelve year olds who have babies out of wedlock to keep them - is that the best thing for the baby?  Sexual abuse is an appalling thing - but how many times has a hug given out of compassion been translated into abuse by a seriously troubled and disturbed individual - and yes of course they can end up genuinely believing that was sexual in nature and constitutes abuse - with horrific consequences.

    • Anjuli says:

      11:20am | 02/12/12

      Saying sorry is just a word,the only thing to come of of saying it is every one it has affected can claim compensation .
      The first thing I was asked by an insurance company, when one of those bubble cars went out of control on black ice and slammed into me 1960—62, was did i say sorry ,of course not ,the naval guy in the German built bubble did .Saying sorry changes nothing years ago I was told as a younger person it show a sign of weakness, I thought it showed good manners, now it seems it means money.

    • nihonin says:

      01:13pm | 02/12/12

      For an a apology to ever be genuine, 99% of it must be dirty lucre.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      11:20am | 02/12/12

      In 1788 there was no Australian Federal Government. The treatment meted out to the native population at that time was at the behest of the British Government. Remember the vast majority of those who arrived here in 1788 did so in chains. They had no choice. They had no guns or swords for they were prisoners.
      It was the British Military, under instructions from the British Government, instructions probably signed into Law by the British King, who had the weapons, who slaughtered the natives.
      Has the British Crown or Government ever apologised for what they did?
      I doubt it and what would be the point of doing so? None of the victims are around to get that apology.
      Yes, it was under assorted Australian Governments that people were stolen from their families so in a way it was up to our current politicians to apologise. As many of those who were taken have said,(when allowed to speak & to the loud condemnation of some who claimed to b part of the Stolen Generations but were later revealed as not being) being fostered or adopted was of great benefit for they got a decent education & followed that with a decent careers.
      Other than for purely cynical political reasons, why did Australian Politicians offer an apology to those British Children who were snatched, abducted, kidnapped, call it what you will, by the Britsh Government & transported to Australia just after WWII? We had a Federal Government of sorts back then but our politicians still did exactly as the British Government told them to.
      If any apology was due to those children, now ageing adults, it was due to them from Britain not Australia.
      Peter Norman? It is the Australian Olympic Committee, & any of it’s members of the time who are still alive, who should apologise. Not Australia & certainly not our politicians on our behalf. I don’t doubt that the AOC of the time were acting on instructions from the Federal Sports Minister who was acting on his instructions from the USA but ordinary Australians played no part in the issue.
      Eventually, as has already occurred, people become dismissive of these sorts of cynical political gestures with a “Oh! No, NOT another bloody apology?“comment.

    • C. says:

      12:16pm | 02/12/12

      I am owed an apology by all and sundry. Better not hold my breath.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      03:24pm | 02/12/12

      @ C, being one of the sundry i apologize to you for whatever it is that you need an apology for. I don’t know what it is or what i have done. But if that’s what’s required by you i apologize for whatever it is i never did.

      Cool hey!. Now, i wrote that because i didn’t want you to hold your breath. Are you holding it in or out. If in, we know that you will have to breath out, but, if out then we know that you will be dead soon if you don’t breathe in again.

      Who is C, well i don’t know who you are but you are important to the apologists. Have a good xmas and new year C and i am glad that you may be breathing again soon. Breathing is better than holding the breath, isn’t it. Well, i can breathe better now knowing that you are OK.

    • Fed up Geoff says:

      01:04pm | 02/12/12

      WHY apologise to the stolen generation ?  At the time -  people thought they were doing the right thing.  At the time - I thought marrying my ex wife was the right thing to do !  We have all made mistakes in the past but this carry on about apologising for what other people at the time thought was right is becoming a pain in the ar$e !  No apologies from me !!!

    • Kathrine Grant says:

      08:38am | 03/12/12

      I accept no responsibility for the treatment of aboriginal people since 1788 nor for the stolen generation.  However, I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the fact that they suffered such treatment.  If my saying that offers a crumb of comfort to their descendants then I’m more than happy to say it

    • Timinane says:

      01:30pm | 02/12/12

      When did Australians turn into a whiny pack of whingers. So what a few politicians apologised for some bad things that happened and no member of the public service stopped or worse the public servants were the people you had to apologise for. I mean the ANZAC legends suffers when we let dickheadx get away with sexual assault as they represent us, I wouldn’t want those dicks anywhere near a uniform same goes fof tazer happy cops.

    • ronny jonny says:

      01:53pm | 02/12/12

      I’m sorry… about your face!!!

    • Paul says:

      01:54pm | 02/12/12

      Rather than making false apologies to big-note himself, Stephen Smith should apologise to the current members who are being screwed by his government’s budget cuts.

      I think what you and he have in common is that you both don’t like service people. Brass-buttoned boy’s club? Sounds like you’ve had a run-in with an AJ at some point and it’s coloured your perception of all service people.

      So what should we call the herd of journalists who’ve actively tried to stifle discussion of the AWU issue? How about the Ministry of Public Incuriosity?

      At least the brass-buttoned boy’s club has been known to fight and die on principle. What do Australian journo’s do? They either willfully ignore half the facts to suit their political biases or they shit their pants and fall into line when the PM calls their boss. Seriously, what year are we living in? Or will it only bother you when Tony Abbott does the same thing?

    • Tom says:

      05:00pm | 02/12/12

      Paul, cutting the budget of an organisation that pays blokes to run around the bush shooting blanks at each other is no bad thing. It’‘ll be good for some grunts to be put to work doing something productive.

      I think brass buttoned boys club is an accurate description. They dress up in their pompous dress uniforms and spend all night drinking- paying themselves to be there!

    • Trish says:

      01:57pm | 02/12/12

      Geoff: I agree with you totally! Our history is a sad story, but, as you say “at the time - people thought they were doing the right thing” How many little aboriginal children went to school, and have gone onto be successful in their own right, I name one off the cuff ... Noel Pearson. Now we have Sorry for the little ones given out in forced adoptions. My mother gave out three of my siblings, because in those days there was nothing for a woman out of wedlock. However, I haven’t asked for the government to say sorry to me, because I lost the opportunity to know my siblings. A doctor once told me “they were the times” and she was surprised when I said “I wasn’t responsible for the times, and replied “no-one has ever said that to me before” Yes, dreadfully sad and awful things have occurred since the beginning of time, but why can’t we just move on. In many instances compensation is sought and the innocent population of today have to pay the cost. I lost much, but, there will be no apology from me, either!!!

    • Bear says:

      02:11pm | 02/12/12

      Liberal lovers should say sorry for all the fiction they write on the punch.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      04:21pm | 02/12/12

      I’m sorry you don’t like what the “Liberal lovers” say…......

    • Mel says:

      04:40pm | 02/12/12

      Yes because Lefties never lie do they ....

    • nihonin says:

      04:41pm | 02/12/12

      lol, thanks for the laugh Bear.

      How about the acolytes of all parties apologise to all the other voters of Australia.  For the crap quality of politicians the members have allowed their parties to foist upon the country.

    • Christian Real says:

      08:01pm | 02/12/12


    • chris says:

      02:15pm | 02/12/12

      Well all this apologizing has certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest.  How ironic that the Government of our country is taking on the responsibility and saying sorry for past actions, when seemingly most of the population on an individual level refuse to accept any responsibility for their own actions.  Man gets drunk, dives into a sandbar and injures himself.  Not his fault, he blames the local Council.
      I don’t want to hear any more empty apologies from attention seeking politicians: I want to hear people acknowledge responsibility for their words and deeds; I want to hear parents teaching children how to behave in socially acceptable ways; I want to hear about people who earn a living not about people who litigate for a free ride.

    • Steve says:

      03:22pm | 02/12/12

      The apology is relevant because succeeding Australian Governments oversaw the culture of sexual intimidation and bastardisation that’s considered “traditional” in the defense forces and did nothing about it. Even today some pretty digusting rituals are practised like they are normal behaviour such as the “crossing the equator” ceremony. In this day and age the defense forces are supposed to be a professional organisation, these ridiculous practices have no place in a modern service. Especially if they want to recruit the best and the brightest at a time when national service is not the first option most people consider. It’s about time the government stamped out these “traditions”, not merely apologise for them.

    • Matt says:

      03:23pm | 02/12/12

      Im sorry all these apologies have upset you Penbo

    • hammy says:

      04:17pm | 02/12/12

      There’s been a few articles these past few weeks how the criminal shouldn’t be blamed.  They’ve had a hard life, we should support drug taking and robbing people, it’s obviously not their fault.  Rehabilitation solves everything - it makes criminals stop committing crimes.  If only we would give them (yet) another chance!!!

    • Duane says:

      05:04pm | 02/12/12

      Queensland’s always been a bit different.

    • Sickemrex says:

      06:39pm | 02/12/12

      It’s shit enough when bleating-hearts do it but it’s downright shameful when the State does it. That’s one instance where a government department got it wrong and should directly apologise. Nothing but silence from Jann Stuckey, contrasting with her enthusiasm in Opposition.

    • Rosie Malezer says:

      05:08pm | 02/12/12

      I agreed with the article and was pleased with what was said… until I started reading the comments.  My dad is one of the stolen generation and the practice of removing black children from black families stopped the year I was born.  I was lucky.  It seems clear that some of you morons have no idea what happened or why.  You just like to see your words printed on here so you can say *hey, look what I did* like some immature young child.  Please get facts before opening your mouth.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      06:27pm | 02/12/12

      Why should I apologize? I didn’t personally perform such actions nor did I vote for any government that performed such actions. I have no responsibility for actions that caused the “Stolen Generations” nor do I consider such a formal apology by the federal government to be a valid apology upon my behalf. As far as your guilt trip is concerned- get stuffed.

    • hammy says:

      06:58pm | 02/12/12

      “You just like to see your words printed on here so you can say *hey, look what I did* like some immature young child.”

      Much like yourself.

    • Captain Col says:

      06:20pm | 02/12/12

      Bad form for a journo, Penbo! 

      Members of the ADF are NOT public servants.  Public servants come under the public service act and are very distinctly different from members of the three armed forces (Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force - there in order of precedence - known collectively as the Australian Defence Force).

      Yes, they are all paid by the government, but don’t get a couple of hundred thousand members and former members noses out of joint by equating us to public servants.  Do your research.

    • stephen says:

      08:06pm | 02/12/12

      The same sentiment behind the Apology is the one trying to regulate the media : once you say sorry, the ball’s in your park because you have made yourself feelingwise, and suddenly you are a victim and the opposer has you at their mercy ; but you’ve already shown yours, so why shouldn’t she ... mostly ‘she’, I might add.
      The government wants to stifle free speech because ‘she’ (there I go again) is a victim, and unfair things have been said, maybe untrue ones - isn’t life nasty ?! - yet the avenue to such unfairness is the same thing : free speech ie. the retort.

      Free speech is the beginnings to free action - the Courts will take care of actions that are deemed criminal - and such actions are free and easy.
      We should do and say and feel what we want.
      If the truth is so important - and of course it is - then we should hear it all, and if a newspaper is wrong and muddleheaded, then all good democrats will respond by letters, or their pockets.

    • stephen says:

      08:16pm | 02/12/12

      ...however, my comments on open thread yesterday, did not, of course, relate to my friends.
      And I unreservedly apologize to you in case you took offence.

    • Tony says:

      07:13am | 03/12/12

      “nothing that happened within the Australian Defence Force Academy was Stephen Smith’s fault. Secondly, none of it was your fault, nor was it my fault either.”

      I totally agree. So explain to me then how anything done to the supposed “Stolen Generation”, or to any other group of victimised people in our history was somehow the fault of your or me?

      CS Lewis in his day wrote an excellent essay on this ‘apologising for the behaviour of others’ and points out that it is not an apology at all. Rather it is an opportunity to look sooooo righteous by condemning those who have gone before while seeming to be apologising.

      Just self promotion through hypocrisy.

      We all have plenty we have done that we can apologise for. Maybe if we started there and worked down the list by the time we came to apologising for the ‘sins’ of our forefathers we would understand a little more of what we were actually doing?

    • Joan Bennett says:

      07:24am | 03/12/12

      My parents came here in 1967 from India, but we are all of anglo-european back ground.  Do I have to apologise still?

    • chuck says:

      07:48am | 03/12/12

      Yet another excuse for the greedy “aggrieved” to get a payout. Funny how $‘s soothes the pain.

    • Warwick says:

      09:07am | 03/12/12

      Saying sorry has a huge emotional impact on the people who have been wronged. It acknowledges them; it acknowledges their suffering and it blames the guilty parties.
      One of the causes of the huge after-suffering that rape victims experience is the thought that it was somehow “their fault.” When the Government of the country makes a formal apology it tells the victims that they are believed, they are recognized, that we, the people, through our elected government, acknowledge you to be a part of us, a part of us who has been subjected to a great mistreatment.

      An apology throws blame onto the guilty parties. Where they previously received general adulation, which they enjoyed tremendously, they are now subject to condemnation, which they hate.
      Furthermore, although citizens of today, or particular citizens, may not have contributed to the mistreatment of the individuals who were made to suffer, we are not just individuals, we are members of society and the behaviour of society as a whole is something that involves us personally. This applies to times past, for we are inheritors of the actions of times past. We live in cities built in times past, we live within institutions built in times past we use language and ideas built in times past, and the institutions which manage our stability and prosperity have a continuity, even though there is a turnover in the individual members of these institutions.
      Do we feel good that the Australian Defense Forces opposed the forces of fascism and nazism in the 40s? Then we should feel bad that those same defense forces abused and raped their new recruits just recently.

    • Leigh says:

      10:53am | 03/12/12

      Like it or not, apologies are a sign of weakness in the current generation, and in countries that don’t share our culture.  Our politicians are continually making fools of themselves and Australia with their pathetic apologies to everyone about everything. We even feel sorry for people coming here on boats!

    • Esteban says:

      11:45am | 03/12/12

      The debate about apologising was won and lost prior to the first apology.

      It is too late now to start wondering if it is a good thing or not. The apology season has some time to go yet and will only stop when it appears ridiculous to the majority.

      A scar on your skin is a reminder of a past trauma. Some scars are permanent and will not go away. A scar might be unsightly but it means a wound has healed over. Healed but scarred.

      We never think about picking at those scars to make them bleed and hope it will make them go away.

      Why do we have to pick at our mental scars?

    • SKA says:

      02:44pm | 03/12/12

      There is a lot about apologies. Last year the Japanese government apologised to POWs it had mistreated. My grandfather was a POW on the Burma-Siam railway. He and 20 other men were beaten so badly by two particular guards in the camp that the other 20 died on the scene. He managed to crawl back to the camp, was found within 50 metres of the gate and later had his leg amputated, without anaesthetic. This is only one small anecdote of the abuse he and others suffered. The apology meant nothing to him. It doesn’t change what happened and incidentally, he actually doesn’t hate Japanese people. He maintains they followed their orders and the guards were often treated as badly by their superiors as the POWs were. He has often said to me that the youth of Japan are not their elders. He doesn’t think they should feel guilty for what their grandparents did to him or should say “sorry”, but he does think they should be taught all aspects of the war. Both the positives of their side and the negatives and with that, we might avert future mistreatment. Actually that is something he thinks anyone of any culture should be taught. An apology doesn’t get his leg back, or take away the nightmares he regularly suffers from. Money doesn’t either. This is a 90 year old man who just came back to live his life the best way he could and help others do the same, without malice or hatred. If an apology works for the groups mentioned in the article, great! But I think to the most part, just helping victims of mistreatment move forward is the best option and making sure abuse isn’t repeated tends to be seen as more valuable by victims - i.e. help the stolen generations locate their families, make sure procedures are in place in ADF to adequately protect from future abuse.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free newsletter