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Saying sorry is easy but only action can give it meaning

After three National Apologies to children and their families – Kevin Rudd’s for the stolen generation, Julia Gillard’s for forced adoptions, and Scott Morrison’s for institutional child sex abuse – one would hope that Australia had recognised our obligation to protect and nurture children, was sorry for the ignorance and inadequate care of the past, and was determined to do better in the future.

Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

Indigenous children remain in detention at record levels.

Refugee children remain stuck in offshore detention.

LGBTQI children remain a football with religious bodies and politicians arguing the right of people to discriminate against them.

Domestic violence remains a scourge that has taken the lives of 18 children so far this year.

Any idea of education funding based on actual need has disappeared.

Tertiary education, instead of being viewed as a public investment in the country, now burdens our young people with a huge debt before they even begin work.

The chance of owning a home has been taken away from most young people by prioritising investors and the protection of their portfolio earnings over the provision of affordable housing.

A couple of weeks ago, ACOSS released a report showing that more than one in six children in Australia are living in poverty. The group of people experiencing poverty the most are, unsurprisingly, those relying on Government allowance payments such as Youth Allowance and Newstart. But our government refuses to increase it despite calls from basically everyone (with the possible exception of Murdoch media consumers) about the necessity to do so and the economic and social benefits that would follow.

The refusal of our government to address climate change is burdening our children with the consequences of our short-sighted greed and an ever-growing cost to clean up our mess and save what they can of a world we seem determined to destroy.

What sort of example are we setting for our children about caring for others who may be less fortunate when we slash foreign aid but hugely ratchet up spending on weapons of war?

We tell our children they must not be bullies but the example set by our politicians is that of rewarding bullies. Yelling abuse is called “cut through”, intimidation is excused as a normal part of a “robust” work environment not designed for “snowflakes”. We ‘adults’ then emulate this vitriolic war of words on social media and then wonder why our kids copy us, on occasion with the most tragic of consequences.

Ian Warden has written a thought-provoking article in the SMH titled Dreaming of a heartfelt apology.

If he is expecting the publicly-expressed remorse to translate into us being better at caring for kids, I’d have to tell him he’s still dreamin’.


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  1. Diannaart

    Can’t claim to be the world’s best at apology. However, do understand it needs be sincere and acknowledgement of the actual transgression is essential along with clear improved behaviour.

    With such broad scale apologies as those for First Nation people or abused children, words have to be followed with appropriate action. No point in apologising for stolen children, then dismissing the Statement from the Heart.

    Taking action for governments in particular, means spending money. Preferably from the abundant buckets held for such holy things as defence, religious considerations (school chaplains and the like) or subsidies for fossil fuel corporations, unnecessary leadership changes, costly attempts to cast aspersions at workers’ unions, the Labor party or uppity Independent politicians.

  2. Kaye Lee

    or court cases to stop the medical transfer of dangerously ill children…..

    The Department of Home Affairs also revealed it has spent almost half a million dollars in legal fees in three months responding to court applications for urgent medical transfers of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru.

    Eleven children were transferred to Australia on Monday, while another 3 or 4 children were transferred over the weekend.

    The children – who range in age from an infant to 17 years – are among 12 families transferred since Sunday, and 23 since last Monday, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told Guardian Australia.

    Of the 23 family groups, which includes young adult children, eight were brought to Australia under federal court order, six were the result of legal intervention but the government conceded before it reached court, and just eight were at the initiative of the Australian Border Force.

  3. pierre wilkinson

    when you consider that it costs @ $200,000 each to keep them in detention, imagine if 5 years ago they had just given them $1million each and told them to start a business and contribute to society? what an outcry there would have been!
    and yet that is pretty much what we do, without the benefit of a contribution to society.
    instead of lowering company taxes they could use the same $3 billion to put up all pension payments and newstart and watch the economy flourish
    my thoughts anyway

  4. Kaye Lee

    paul, from your link….

    “It may be time to limit – and perhaps forbid – the minister’s rights to intercede for political purposes.”

    Wouldn’t that be good, but isn’t it a crying shame that all current Ministers seem to reject expert advice in favour of “help your mates”.

  5. Kaye Lee


    Funny you should say that. Back in February 2014 I wrote an article called Let’s buy an island

    “For the amount of money we are spending keeping asylum seekers away we could buy them a country and build luxury resorts for them to live in.”

    Let’s buy an island

  6. pierre wilkinson

    @ Kaye Lee, precisely, or let them stay here in luxury as long as they didn’t tell the media..
    similarly with those incarcerated for all but violent crimes… it costs so much you could tell them that they will be released with a $100,000 bond that is forfeited if they re-offend, where upon they also resume their original detention: or you could give them a fair chance at finding work and still some dignity by raising the welfare payments.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I like that idea of a bond for convicted offenders. Obviously not applicable to all but what a good idea for many. Or provide them with free housing and a job for the first twelve months.

  8. paul walter

    Kaye Lee, I think it is symptomatic of this characteristic that betrays them as running on half baked opinionation, prejudice and conceit-self-will run riot- rather than rationality, with some humility and open mindedness, as should apply with a minister of the crown.

    It has been a carry on like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for way too long and smacks of the denial driven fantasising that had Germany in ruins in 1945.

    One day…

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