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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.