Australia is a country that keeps apologising.
We have apologised for the stolen generation.
We are sorry for what happened to child migrants.
We have apologised for stealing the babies from single mothers and having them adopted out.
Authorities are apologising far too often for yet another Aboriginal death in custody.
Many institutions are now apologising (having been dragged kicking and screaming) for the horrific sexual abuse of children in their care.
We are sorry about the way gay people were treated and it looks like we may soon be very sorry the police did not adequately investigate a spate of apparent gay suicides in Sydney a few decades ago.
We are very sorry, our representatives opine earnestly with suitably solemn looks on their faces.
We must root out the wrongdoers, we must examine our systems and processes.
We must make sure that such behaviour never occurs again. Everybody weeps and metaphorically tears at their hair, rends their garments and piles their heads with sackcloth and ashes.
And then, job done, satisfied with what good people we are, we blithely get on with our lives as if absolutely nothing has happened.
And, given last night’s horrific Four Corners program exposing appalling abuse of (mostly) indigenous children in juvenile detention in the NT, it seems nothing has.
Four Corners revealed the brutal treatment of children in youth detention facilities in the Northern Territory. Post continues after video.
A Royal Commission has been called for and, this morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that one will be instituted.
Good. The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has done excellent work. A Royal Commission is necessary and no doubt will lead to many more serious faced apologies by the great and (supposedly) good.
However, I think we need a Royal Commission into something much broader than juvenile detention centres in the NT, worthy and necessary though that may be.
We need to explore the nexus between racism and abuses of power in Australia; past, present and future.
Because, let’s not forget, we still have a few thousand (mostly darker skinned) people incarcerated on Manus Island and in Nauru, none of whom have been charged with any crime, given their day in court or had any sentence passed upon them.
No doubt we will one day have to apologise for our treatment of them.
Many otherwise quite ordinary Australians now feel free to demand an end to all Muslim migration to our country.
We have had what educators call ‘white flight’ in our schools for many decades now. It is common to see schools in our cities where there are few white faces, whereas the school down the road has very few black ones.
We haven’t had to apologise for any of that yet. In fact, we haven’t even acknowledged it.
But frankly I am sick of all this apologising. I’d like my country to stop doing the things that lead to us hanging our head in shame in the first place.
Is that too much to ask?
Given we have now elected Pauline Hansen back into our parliament and, possibly, a couple more One Nation representatives, I think we urgently need a forensic examination of our history.
It seems the notorious White Australia Policy may have been excised from our legislation (and, it sometimes seems, our memories) but its influence remains. Actually, have we apologised for that, yet?
I am assuming our diplomats spend a great deal of time doing so, particularly in Asia.
Australia has a problem. It has a problem with what John Oliver rather too kindly called ‘casual’ racism. The footage I saw on my TV last night looked far from casual to me.
It is time for an intervention and the first step in that intervention is to admit we have a problem. We must stop making excuses.
The evidence showing we have a problem is the very fact of our serial apologising.
As any recovering alcoholic or drug addict can tell you, until we face ourselves as we are, and accept that we have a problem, we will not be able to do anything meaningful about it.
Which means we will continue to destroy not just vulnerable members of our community like the children in NT juvenile detention centres, but ourselves.
I’d like Advance Australia Fair to stand for a country where everyone gets a fair go, not that you only get opportunities if your skin is fair.