There are a lot of useful lessons that can be learned from Germany about healing and reconciliation after terrible national trauma.
It has been fascinating and deeply moving to visit the sites where terrible atrocities occurred under the Nazis and in the aftermath of WWII, to see them remembered, explained and memorialized.
Many memorials are only in German, because they are not designed for tourists, but for Germans to acknowledge understand. With the help of my local guide who translated, I watched as a mother explained to her young son what Berlin’s book burning memorial was all about.
German students learn about the atrocities of WWII, not to feel ashamed and guilty, but to understand and ensure they are never repeated.
I have been watching with interest as Fremantle debates how it should celebrate Australia Day, and I am deeply disappointed I am not there to participate.
I believe we need to acknowledge the sadness that many feel on Australia Day and recognize that the day marks the beginning of an injustice and trauma within our nation. By acknowledging and understanding it, we do not need to feel guilty. You or I didn’t invade Australia and commit genocide on the Aboriginal people, but to ignore this is to continue the hurt.
We have a very special anniversary coming up in 2017. May 27 marks fifty years since the referendum that resulted in Indigenous Australians being given the same rights as all other citizens. To me this is the day we truly became a nation. It is hard for me to comprehend that there are people alive in our community today that were not given the right to vote or be counted in the census just because they are Aboriginal.
While the issue of what date our national celebration is held on is not what we are trying to resolve now, I hope that next year we can mark this special anniversary proudly and celebrate it widely.
How we chose to mark this anniversary, and Australia Day could be a useful step towards acknowledging the injustices of the past and making peace and reconciliation and creating a better future.