Today is Australia Day, it is a national holiday in Australia marking the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet and Arthur Phillip. For the First Nations people of Australia, this is a day of mourning. It is a day that changed their world irrevocably as it marked the start of an oppressive and violent period in their history which included many massacres, the Stolen Generation (where children were forcibly taken from their families and put into Western, predominantly Christian education systems) and attempts to eliminate their culture.
In 2008, then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, issued an official apology to Australia’s Indigenous People by the House of Representatives. His apology speech acknowledged the mistreatment of Australia’s First Nation People and the laws that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on our fellow Australians” (2008). It goes into details about the Stolen Generation and apologises for the indignity and pain caused to those people, their descendants and communities. It talks about facing the future together in a spirit of healing, and a commitment to “close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity”.
Saying sorry is important, when it is done with sincerity and when real actions are taken to make amends and to right the wrong that was done. An apology can be a powerful gift for both the giver and the receiver, and it is frequently the beginning of a healing journey.
However, making a sincere apology takes immense courage and isn’t always easy to do. So many of us do not give that all-important apology even though we know deep down that we should. We make up excuses as to why we should not have to apologise, why it’s actually “not our fault” and we create layers and layers of stories to shield us from what we know to be true. Unfortunately, this only delays the healing process and makes it a more complicated and difficult path to traverse. Many of my clients could have escaped years of stress and anxiety from fractured relationships if they had just received or given a sincere apology and started their healing journey earlier.
Who in your life needs to hear you say “I’m Sorry”?
Reference: Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples (2008)