Australia's Apology to the "Stolen Generations"

When Australia's new legislature convenes on Wednesday, February 13, the first item on government's agenda will be for the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, to issue a formal public apology aimed at the "Stolen Generations" -- aboriginal children who, from 1915 and 1969, were forcibly taken from their parents to be placed in institutions or raised by white families. The concept of restorative justice embedded in the recommendation that the Australian government apologize to its indigenous population deserves serious consideration -- for the same reason similar recommendations make sense in the US for apologies to American Indians and African Americans. The most significant barrier to issuing these apologies is the mistaken assumption that once issued tens of thousand of legal cases will be launched by lawyers searching for compensation for their clients. This fear is unwarranted, for many of the reasons outlined in Governments should seriously consider taking the lead from medical apologies and the full disclosure movement sweeping medical and malpractice litigation. The political benefits will far outweigh any costs (real or imagined).