Forgiveness can be empowering
one apologising. The importance and power of forgiveness has been ome Aboriginal discussed recently by people who believe many with the passing the past (specifically, of one who many the actions of the regard as a great leader. British colonisers) is Forgiveness is not the cause of their something that can be problems today seek an easily taught, so I will apology or some form of make no attempt here. acknowledgment. But I will offer some It is claimed that until advice from Aboriginal today’s non-Aboriginal (Yuin) Elder, Uncle people acknowledge Max Harrison. Uncle Anthony Dillon with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Image supplied the past, a brighter Max has an excellent future for Aboriginal Aboriginal people. Clearly this chapter on forgiveness people is unlikely to be achieved. is disempowering for Aboriginal in his book My People’s Dreaming. Those holding such a view people, as well as false. This As he explains the concept of have not been clear on how is not to say that an official forgiveness better than just about such acknowledgement by nonacknowledgement is inappropriate, anyone I know, I quote from his Aboriginal people today (who but only that it is not necessary to book: “Forgiveness is for your had no connection whatsoever enable people to succeed. healing. It’s your self-healing, it’s with colonisation) will resolve the Many people felt that the got nothing to do with the person problems facing Aboriginal people. apology given in 2008 by then that has probably done wrong” (p. Nor do they give a response to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to 151). In other words, we forgive the fact that so many Aboriginal Aboriginal people was sincere for our benefit, not for the benefit people are not suffering from the and much needed. Since that of those who we believe have past and indeed are flourishing, time, many have claimed that this wronged us. despite a lack of acknowledgement. apology needs to be accompanied In her book Sawbonna: I see you: Often associated with this need with action. I agree, but I believe a A real life restorative justice story, for an acknowledgment, is the vitally important required action on Margot Van Sluytman describes demand to “teach the real history the part of Aboriginal people is also her decision to meet the man who of this country in our schools”. called for. Specifically, the action murdered her father. She writes, That is fine, but there may be some of forgiveness is required. While “The future is now. The damaged aspects of the history, specifically many have forgiven, many haven’t. past does not have to live in our pre-colonisation Aboriginal living, We cannot change the past, but we bones forever. The journey does that some will not be comfortable can forgive those from the past who not have to be only raw grief” learning. For most societies, we believe have either wronged (2009, p. 79). After a traumatic or patriarchy was the norm at one us personally, or collectively as a unjust event, a response of anger, time, and sadly, still is in some race. ‘Forgiveness’ is very often an sadness, grief, etc., is common. places. emotive topic, but it is a necessary Van Sluytman is suggesting that The idea that an act for those who see themselves such responses do not have to acknowledgement by nonas victims of the past. Offering be permanent. My message for Aboriginal people is needed in forgiveness is far more empowering Aboriginal people (and all people) order for Aboriginal people to than receiving an apology – and far is that our future is now. The feel good and engage in society more difficult (while it is getting important questions we must ask and attain the standard of living easier for me as get older, I still ourselves are, ‘What am I doing most other Australians take for struggle sometimes). The beauty now? Am I letting the past rob me granted essentially implies that of forgiveness is that it brings of my happiness and freedom now, the happiness and well-being healing, even if an apology is or am I helping to make a better of Aboriginal people today is not given, thereby giving power future for all?’ under the direct control of nonto the one forgiving and not the Page 1 by Dr Anthony Dillon 19 December 2013
Some Aboriginal people who believe the past (specifically, the actions of the British colonisers) is the cause of their problems today seek...