Reflecting on Sorry Day
I don’t know about you but COVID-19 has made me slow down. I’ve had time to contemplate. I’ve had time to listen. I’ve had time to learn. I’ve had time to reflect.
I’ve found myself finding a small piece of earth and standing barefoot and looking to the sky. I’ve looked to the sky and felt the sun warm my heart. I’ve looked to the sky and felt droplets of rain refresh my soul. I’ve looked to the sky and realised my hearing and sight are not disrupted by planes. Today I look to the sky and I remember…
Today is National Sorry Day. The day on the nation’s calendar where we remember the Stolen Generations. I feel the tear roll down my cheek. I am sorry. Tomorrow is the start of National Reconciliation Week and on 28 May is the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk for Reconciliation. I look to the sky and remember 20 years ago where in the sky across Sydney the letters – S O R R Y – appeared. I am sorry.
I know some of you want to stop reading – you’ve heard it before, what do you have to say sorry for, you weren’t there you didn’t do it. Please stay – tune your ears and feel the release of just listening. You see sorry isn’t just about apologising. Sorry isn’t just about an admission of guilt. Sorry is also an expression of sorrow. Times of sorrow and times when we need to reconcile bring us together.
Today, due to a global pandemic, we have been brought together. During this time some of us or our family and friends have lost loved ones. I know I have said sorry – sorry for their loss, sorry they can not have the funeral they would have hoped, sorry they cannot grieve with family. Sorry has also been expressed as we’ve had to say sorry for not being able to celebrate birthdays together, sorry for not being able to visit family and friends, or even the sorry for being late to a zoom call!
Together, we have also all felt the impacts of new terms such as self-isolation, social isolation, and physical distancing which have all seemingly placed restrictions on our freedom to move. For each of us the journey has been different but it is one we will always remember. And whilst we have not been able to move freely, we have not been removed. We are still able to connect with our family and friends via facebook, zoom, and even by old school phone calls. Grandchildren have counted down the days until they can see their Grandparents again and vice versa. But we know the day we can reconnect is approaching. We have expectant hope. Maybe that has been what has kept us going through this time.
A month ago, on 25 April, many, including me, went out at dawn on their driveways to honour those who served and lost life in all wars. This year it had a deeper impact and I know I grieved and was sorry for those service men and women who are still alive who were not able to gather with their mates to share with those who went through what they went through – it is part of healing.
Today, on National Sorry Day, there are usually big events, where members of the Stolen Generations gather together with friends and supporters – it is part of healing. I am sorry they and we cannot gather together in person.
Today, members of the Stolen Generations are still alive. Some have never been able to find their families, to reconnect. For that I am sorry.
Today Aboriginal children are still removed from their families at alarming rates through the New Stolen Generation or by our youth detention centres being overrepresented by Aboriginal children and young people. For that I am sorry.
Today many Australians still deny the true history of these lands now called Australia – deny the Invasion and dispossession, the massacres and destruction, the racist government and church policies that removed and continue to remove Aboriginal children from their families, their culture, their hope. For that I am sorry.
In the year 2000, over one million Australians right across these lands now called Australia, walked for Reconciliation. In the year 2020 we still have not achieved Reconciliation – we need to keep walking. I know this year, with leaning into the feeling of lament of National Sorry Day, that I will follow the call of Common Grace to recommit to #StillWalkingForReconciliation and I pray you do to. If you have never taken a step for Reconciliation – a Reconciliation with friendship, truth and action, then maybe 2020 is the year.
Why not take the opportunity of time and slowing down that 2020 has presented to contemplate, listen, learn and reflect. Perhaps you could stand barefoot on the earth and look to the sky whilst you listen to Archie Roach’s “Took the Children Away”. Watch the 30 minute video about the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families or read the 1997 ‘Bringing Them Home Report’.
What better time than National Sorry Day 2020 to connect or reconnect to the true history of Australia and in particular today with the stories of the Stolen Generations. Saying sorry doesn’t mean you forget – it means you remember – and with remembering there can be healing and hope.
Brooke Prentis is an Aboriginal Christian leader and is the CEO of Common Grace, a growing movement of over 47,000 Australian Christians passionate about Jesus and Justice. You can recommit to #StillWalkingForReconciliation by following Common Grace on social media @commongraceaus and by accessing the website here