We must all accept guilt

I rejoice that, with bipartisan support, the House of Representatives has passed legislation that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of Australia; and look forward to putting my yes vote to a future referendum.

However, I note that the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Tony Abbott, in his address to the Parliament, said that we should not feel guilty for what our forebears did to destroy the life and culture of the first inhabitants. 

I find this curious, given that Mr Abbott is a practising Roman Catholic and like all Christians would accept that before forgiveness can be given, whether by God in communion, a priest in confession, or just you and me, one has to acknowledge guilt.

Surely we, the inheritors of the benefits of the injuries, the injustices our forebears inflicted on the original inhabitants, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether the sin be one of commission or omission, should accept that we all carry the guilt of what was done in the past. 

If we accept the benefits of what was done, then surely we should accept that many of those benefits were built on crimes committed against our fellow human beings.

While I am not aware of anything I have done, deliberately or unintentionally, to discriminate against the original inhabitants, I as a practising Christian, acknowledge that I too carry the guilt, the burden, of what my forebears have done.  And I ask to be forgiven. 

The benefit of accepting guilt, of receiving forgiveness, is that we can all go forward together, Australians united, to build a fairer, more just society, not only for us but particularly for the children now born or yet to be born.

Shirley Colless