Motion of Reconciliation

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The Motion of Reconciliation was a motion to the Australian Parliament introduced on 26 August 1999. Drafted by Prime Minister John Howard (Liberal Party) in consulation with Aboriginal Senator Aden Ridgeway (Democrat), it dedicated the Parliament to the "cause of reconciliation" and recognised historic maltreatment of indigenous Australians as the "most blemished chapter" in Australian history.


Background Notes[edit]

Movement towards this motion began with the commissioning of the Bringing Them Home Report by the government of Paul Keating (Labor Party), which recommended that an official apology be offered by the Australian Government for past government welfare policies which the report said had separated children from parents on racial grounds and came at severe personal cost to those involved, a group it termed "The Stolen Generation".

Although contemporaneously reported in international media as an "apology", the refusal to include the word "sorry" in the Parliamentary Motion of Reconciliation became a subject of considerable debate and controversy in Australia.

In response to requests for a national apology, John Herron, then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, had responded by saying: "the government does not support an official national apology. Such an apology could imply that present generations are in some way responsible and accountable for the actions of earlier generations; actions that were sanctioned by the laws of the time and that were believed to be in the best interests of the children concerned."[1]

Labor Party Proposed Amendment[edit]

Kim Beazley, leader of the opposition Labor Party, unsuccessfully proposed an amendment stating that the Parliament: "unreservedly apologises to indigenous Australians for the injustice they have suffered, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to suffer as a consequence of that injustice; and calls for the establishment of appropriate processes to provide justice and restitution to members of the stolen generation through consultation, conciliation and negotiation rather than requiring indigenous Australians to engage in adversarial litigation in which they are forced to relive the pain and trauma of their past suffering".

Upon taking office in 2007, the Government of Kevin Rudd (Labor Party) did offer a "National Apology", however without proposing a compensation or restitution process. The 2007 motion passed through Parliament with the bi-partisan support of the Liberal-National Party Opposition.

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