I was tear-sodden from the minute Bananas in Pyjamas ended. What really did it, though, was when Rudd turned his applause away from the parliament towards the people in the visitors' gallery. My sentimental blokality aside, all this talk of a "new chapter" (as if to say that the hurts of the old chapter are now, by decree, good and healed?) was ambiguous enough to make me anxious. It's not for me to declare what it would take to lessen those hurts, but my instinct is that though "sorry" helps, it only helps if it comes from a position of yearning to make amends. It only helps if we yearn in earnest, and try to make amends in practice. I think this is what Rudd meant - I hope so - and I hope that those who people this new chapter are conscious of and responsive to what has gone before.
Meanwhile, Dr Nelson distinguished himself with this fine specimen of moral logic: "There is no compensation fund, nor should there be. How can any sum of money replace a life deprived of knowing your family?" Too right, Horatio. And this is why I suggest we abolish the practise of awarding monetary compensation altogether: because how can any sum of money compensate for reduced life expectancy, or a lost limb, or a foreshortened stint in Hollywood. Gah. That spare $34 billion Rudd offered in tax cuts can't replace a life deprived of knowing one's family, but if it found its way into a compensation fund it would certainly be a sign of our sincerity. An in principle promise to see every Aboriginal four-year-old in preschool isn't enough; substantive equality for Aboriginal and migrant Australians is a minimum good, and the good we have to find to say sorry is more than the minimum.
On a semi-unrelated note, I was surprised to hear Nelson casting Australia's ecology as some kind of misanthropic wasteland: "Blah blah blah", he said, "combined to deliver a harshness exceeded only by the land over which each sought to prevail." And earlier: "In brutally harsh conditions, from the small number of early British settlers our non indigenous ancestors have given us a nation the envy of any in the world." That he was co-opting Sorry Day to eulogise British colonisation is in aggressively bad taste, yes, but what's with the land's "harshness"? Sydney's climate? Harsh? Try a London Winter, working-class 1780s-style. Time to move on, Dr N. This land is inhospitable(ish) to some exotic crops (and unfortunately not to others, viz. prickly pear and co.), but it's never been inhospitable to those who want to live with it, rather than prevail over it.