Why keep saying sorry?

Sorry Day commemorations in Wellington Square, Perth, were significant but low key this morning. The usual annual crowd of 3000, comprising school children and business folk, is not as accessible on a chilly Saturday morning. Even so, about 100 folk gathered at the Sorry Pole listened to speeches from Sorry Day leaders, Noongar Elder Ben Taylor, and WA Govermor Malcom McCusker. Traditional dance and a cleansing smoking ceremony accompanied the planting of the “sea of hands” by all present. Coffee and hot dogs completed the occasion.

A letter in today’s paper asks, “Why keep saying sorry? Isn’t once enough?” It is important for our nation’s healing to keep remembering the Prime Minister’s apology to our indigenous people’s for the harmful policies that all but destroyed them as a culture and a people. Many still live with the legacy of the disintegration of family and identity, revealed in over-representation in prisons, poor health and reduced educational opportunities. To say sorry is not to keep on begging forgiveness, but to express the desire to work together in building adequate redress. Saying sorry moves beyond self indulgence in regret and remorse to the frank acknowledgement that things are not good and we want to act to make them better.

“Sorry” is what grammaticians might describe as a “past continuous” concept – the action begins at a point in history and continues on. It does not rest until redress is complete, and there are 50 plus recommendations from the Sir Ronald Wilson “Bringing Them Home” report to parliament that are yet to be implemented.

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

7 thoughts on “Why keep saying sorry?

  1. You say it so well, WP. Injustice on that scale has far reaching effects, effects with which many still live. Sorry is a reminder, so that we do not compound the mistakes of the past with present injustice.


  2. Many in South Africa also want to forget the past. We’ve had our peace and reconciliation commission, we’ve said our sorries, let’s move on. But as Kate says, sorry is a reminder, a remembering, not for morbidity but to encourage new beginnings. But first, saying sorry reminds me that many have been left behind, there is still much healing needed, much pain that has been ignored; it helps me look inside myself for those attitudes and assumptions within me that continue the pain, that hinder the healing, that make new beginnings impossible. Thanks, WP, for keeping these things to the fore. Strength.


  3. Thanks Kate & Ian. We can do little better than look to the dynamic behind the truth and reconciliation process that has been South Africa’s experience. I understand that where it has been applied the results have been constructive and healing. There are no quick fixes however, and a willingness to embrace the pain without losing sight of hope. methinks, is the way to go.


  4. Yes, Claire, the matter has certainly disappeared from the media radar screen. I am heartened that four of our surrounding city councils are now working with Reconciliation Australia on Reconciliation Action Plans. Constant dripping wears away the stone. Loved “The Art of Apology” on your page (as well as some of the other articles on communication and you’ve gained a “follower”) 🙂


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