Goonellabah woman off to hear PM say 'Sorry'
By Alex Easton
PRISCILLA WIGHTMAN does not remember a man holding a gun to her mother’s head as she was taken from her family.
She doesn’t remember the raid by police, welfare officers and hospital staff on her%Moree mission, which was timed for when the men were all away at work. She and%several cousins were forcibly stolen from their families.
She doesn’t remember her parents. She was only two when she was taken in 1960, and both died before she had the chance to meet them again. And she doesn’t know her people’s culture, or even what it’s like to be raised by parents who love you and always put you first.
Ms Wightman, of Goonellabah, flies out today on her way to Canberra to watch with her brother and sister, and hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd utter the simple word that has had the Commonwealth tongue-tied for more than a%decade: Sorry.
She just hopes he gets it right.
“He should say something like: ‘Sorry for the injustice’. It’d be good if there was that word in there, ‘injustice’,” Ms Wightman said.
“I compare it (the stolen generations) to what happened to the Jews and the atrocities of that past.
“There was that whole idea of taking the lighter-skinned people away to integrate and assimilate them to wipe out the indigenous population.
“That’s similar to what Hitler decided to do with the Jews. And there’s all that%business with the flour and water which was poisoned.”
Money for her flights was donated by Lismore People for Reconciliation and the%local Baha’i community.
While keen to be in Canberra for tomorrow’s apology, Ms Wightman said it would be more meaningful if it included individual apologies from the men and women responsible for carrying out the government policies that created the stolen generations.
“It would be more meaningful to have the original people apologise. Rudd’s apologising on behalf of them, but why can’t they come forward?” she asked.
“What a weight they must have on their shoulders. Have them come forward.”
And as important as an apology is, it doesn’t negate the need to compensate families torn apart by government policies.
“Compensation needs to happen. They stole our identity, our culture and our family unity. There’s all the trauma we went through and still go through,” she said.
“It’s got to be there.”
That compensation should come in the form of things such as education, housing and health programs for Aboriginal peoples; basically the recommendations listed in the original Bringing Them Home report that began the call for an apology, but with care taken to ensure the money ended up where it was needed.
However, even after all of that, Ms Wightman conceded the wounds ripped open 48 years ago when she was taken from her family could never really be healed.
“There can be things put in place to make sure it never happens again, but it’s something I live with every day,” she said.
“I acknowledge the significance of what Rudd is going to do, but as far as a healing process that will never stop.
“I can’t get my mummy and daddy back.”