Australia says ‘sorry’ to Aborigines

CANBERRA, Feb 13, 2008 (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an historic apology to Aborigines Wednesday for injustices committed over two centuries of white settlement, saying he wanted “to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul.” The apology represented a watershed in Australia’s often fraught history of race relations, with television networks airing it live and thousands of people crowding around huge screens in major cities to witness the event.

“We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians,” Rudd told parliament.

Parliament’s public galleries were packed for the reconciliation gesture, with 3,000 people watching on screens erected on lawns opposite the building.

Many Aborigines had travelled thousands of kilometres (miles) to Canberra for the occasion, and some wept as Rudd said sorry for the wrongs the original Australians endured after British settlers arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788.

“This is the most significant moment for our people that’s happened in my lifetime,” Aboriginal man Darryl Towney told AFP.

“For us, this is like the Berlin Wall coming down.”

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