New Australian PM pledges quick apology to Aborigines

Australia's prime minister elect Kevin Rudd on Monday pledged his government would make an early formal apology to Aborigines for the "stolen generation" of indigenous children snatched from their parents.

New Australian PM pledges quick apology to Aborigines
Rudd, 50, who came to power in a general election landslide Saturday, said his would become the first federal administration ever to apologise for the policy.

"It will be early in the parliamentary term," Rudd told reporters in Brisbane after receiving a rock star welcome from screaming school children elated by the centre-left Labor Party leader's election.

"We will frame it in a consultative fashion with communities and that may take some time," he said two days after sweeping conservative Prime Minister John Howard from power.

Howard, like previous Australian leaders, had refused to say sorry to the Aboriginal community for the policy in which children were removed from their families in a bid to force ethnic assimilation between the 1930s and 1970s.

Aborigines have pressed for such an apology, saying it is the only way to recognise historical injustices and abuses they have suffered at white hands and to pave the way forward for the nation's most disadvantaged group.

Thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their families and put into foster care over the four decades. Some of them never saw their families again.

The Aboriginal community, which dominated the continent until the first British settlers arrived in 1788, now numbers only about 470,000 out of a population of 21 million and is heavily socially disadvantaged.

As Rudd prepares to make good his campaign pledge to say sorry, a leading activist said Monday the country had moved closer to reconciliation with Aborigines with the election of the new government.

"It's an opportunity for us to build a national plan to actually tackle all these practical problems that confront indigenous Australia and are holding up reconciliation," Professor Mick Dodson told national radio.

Dodson, who is director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University, urged Rudd to review a current Howard government policy whereby police and military are deployed to indigenous camps.

"I understand it's... running into some difficulties. Perhaps it's time to assess and evaluate," he said, pressing Rudd to abandon his plan to launch a review only once the widely-criticised intervention was one year old.

Rudd has said he intends to stick with the contentious deployment, which was launched in June to remote communities. Its aim is to ensure law and order and end violence and abuse against women and children.

The policy was criticised as draconian and ill-considered. Some Labor leaders Monday called for it to be eased.

Warren Snowdon, a Labor MP from the Northern Territory, said the message from Saturday's vote was that the "patronising and paternalistic approach of John Howard and (his Aboriginal Affairs Minister) Mal Brough had to go."

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Kasım 2007, 17:19
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