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Two days when Australia started to grow up

It would be remiss of me if I were not to mention the fabulous events in Canberra last week. February 13, 2008, will go down as one of the most joyous days in modern Australian history - the day that Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Australian parliament, said "Sorry" to the stolen indigenous generations. Rudd gave what was unquestionably one of the great speeches of our country's history.

But the ceremonies of the previous day - the "Welcome to Country" at the official opening of parliament - were significant in their own right, as well as being very moving. For the first time, indigenous Australia was the centrepiece of a major national ceremonial occasion, just one sign that we are finally starting to embrace our indigenous brethren on equal terms.

There's a long way to go, of course. It grieved me, as it did last year, to see the racial divide in Sydney on Australia Day. The whites, the tourists, the media whooping it up on and around Sydney Harbour celebrating the great invasion of 1788. At Victoria Park, Broadway, the Kooris, the Murris, their brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles, celebrating their people's survival at the Yabun concert.

May the day come (and soon) when Yabun takes place in Hyde Park, and the anglophile Australia Day festivities (including, for goodness sake, the vintage car parade on Macquarie Street), are shunted to the outskirts of the CBD. Or better still, combine them all as one.

Back to the Apology, it was a crying shame to see that there are still people who don't think it was necessary to say Sorry. Poor Brendan Nelson was in political no-mans land when he tried to give a speech in support of Rudd's apology which totally missed the point of the occasion. But it is Nick Minchin's speech to the Senate later that morning, as Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, that needs to be read in order to get a clearer picture of the Tories' mean-spiritedness.

Finally, there should be no dispute that those indigenous people who were stolen from their families as children deserve to be compensated. Just what form this compensationn should take is a matter for conjecture, but the Apology of February 13 is just one step. Even if it costs the Australian people a billion dollars to pay for the compensation, we should do it. Especially if Australia is as prosperous as we are frequently told it is.

The ABC has put together an excellent section of their news website on the Apology, with plenty of useful external links.