As media criticism of Prime Minister John Howard over his refusal to attend Sunday’s Reconciliation Week walk in Sydney gathered pace today, it is interesting to compare the speech he made on Saturday to Corroboree 2000 with the speech given by Sir William Deane.
The Governor-General’s speech contrasts sharply with what the Sydney Morning Herald called the “mean spritedness” and the “deadly sameness” of the “narrow, destructive course” followed by Howard
In his speech, Deane said: “Looking back, the starting point must be an acknowledgment of facts and truths which are now too well established or obvious to be denied. The dispossession and oppression of the Aboriginal peoples of this country over most of the years of non-indigenous settlement constitute, as Justice Gaudron and I said in a case called Mabo, the darkest aspect of the history of our nation.”
Later, after listing some positive milestones for Aborigines, such as the High Court’s 1992 Mabo judgement, the Governor-General said: “Even more important than the specific milestones that I have mentioned has been the ever-increasing grass roots awareness of the importance of both national reconciliation and the battle to overcome entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage. In the years that I have been Governor-General, Helen and I have been privileged to be part of countless unforgettable instances of reconciliation at the personal level in all parts of Australia. They have done much to shape the three thoughts about reconciliation which I wish to share with you as we stand at this crossroads and look to the future.”