“‘Sorry’ means ‘respect’”

Personal stories help us to ‘get’ the big stuff. Here is Evonne Goolagong-Cawley’s, from The Australian:
 
TENNIS great Evonne Goolagong-Cawley used to hide under her bed when a stranger came to the door of her childhood home.

It was a knee-jerk reaction for an Aboriginal girl, living in southwestern NSW, repeatedly warned of the dangers of unknown visitors in the era of the stolen generations.

“Whenever I visited the Griffith mission in the early ’50s, my aunty and my mother used to say whenever a shiny car came down the road … ‘Come on you better run and hide, the welfare man will come and take you away’,” Ms Goolagong-Cawley said in Canberra today.

“I used to run and hide under the bed.”

The habit persisted at her home in Barellan, the small town she grew up in where her’s was the only Aboriginal family.

“Whenever some stranger would come to the door I would still run and hide under the bed.

“It shows that fear has passed through from generation to generation.

“They have a very vivid and very strong memory of that time and of having that fear.”

In her extended family, the two-time Wimbledon champion said she had cousins who had been taken from their parents.

Ms Goolagong-Cawley, a member of the Wiradjuri people, was among those witnessing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to indigenous Australians today.

“It’s going to take me a few days to sort of come down I think. I’m still a bit flustered,” she said.

“Absolutely amazing. I just can’t believe that after all this time it’s finally happened and I’m here to support all those mothers who went through so much pain at having their children taken away.”

Ms Goolagong-Cawley said she knew of many mothers who had sent messages to victims of the stolen generations.

“Now, healing can start. To say sorry means a sign of respect.

“Now I think that that’s the first step towards … reconciliation in this country.

“When you say sorry it creates a better working relationship. I think we have a better chance of working together now.”
 
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