A year on from his emotion charged apology to the stolen generations, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stands accused of doing nothing practical to address Aboriginal disadvantage.
Source
AAP
13 Feb 2009 - 7:48 PM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2013 - 11:52 AM

A year on from his emotion charged apology to the stolen generations, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stands accused of doing nothing practical to address Aboriginal disadvantage.

Some indigenous leaders say Aboriginal people have never been worse off, and claim the government has used its apology as a "shield against criticism of its failures in Aboriginal affairs".

With Australia gripped by Victoria\'s bushfire disaster, the first anniversary of Mr Rudd\'s apology passed on Friday with little fanfare.

The government used the occasion to announce a healing foundation to be headed by former Australian of the Year professor Lowitja O\'Donoghue and academic Gregory Phillips.

It will be tasked with "developing new approaches to healing the pain".

The government will also expand the Link Up program to work on 351 family reunions, and about 100 return to countries, a process to help reconnect indigenous Australians with their traditional lands.

Pope Benedict XVI, during an audience with Australia\'s first ambassador to the Vatican, Tim Fischer, praised Mr Rudd for apologising to the stolen generations.

"Through the apology offered last year by Prime Minister Rudd, a profound change of heart has been affirmed," the Pope said.

But his view that there was "a renewed spirit of reconciliation" was tempered by heavily criticisms from some Aboriginal leaders, who said not enough had been done in the 12 months since the apology.

What many hoped would be turning point for race relations in Australia, and would open the door to compensation, is now being described as an empty gesture.

"Aboriginal people, and especially members of the stolen generations, are probably worse off," indigenous leader and director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell said on Friday.

"There is no land rights for the dispossessed, no compensation for the stolen generations, the health standards are not improving and the Aboriginal imprisonment rate continues to climb ...

"The apology has provided the Rudd government with a political shield against criticism of its failures in Aboriginal affairs. "Rudd used Aboriginals to improve his social standing, then walked away."

This time last year, the Labor government set itself a goal to close the 17-year gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a generation.

In a joint statement with Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, Mr Rudd acknowledged the apology was only one of many steps that needed to be taken.

"It was a first step to build a bridge of respect between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and generate the mutual trust and respect needed for closing the gap," he said.

"We must keep moving forward. We must help people to heal if all Australians are to have a better future."

The government had been due to release its inaugural report card on indigenous policy outcomes to parliament on Thursday but it was postponed due to the bushfire crisis.

Harold Furber, chairperson of the Central Australian Stolen Generations and Families Aboriginal Corporation, renewed calls for compensation.

"I think so many people from across Australia, especially those old people, were excited and really felt the apology," he said.

"(But) it\'s coming up sort of empty." Greens MP Mark Parnell called on the South Australian government to mark the anniversary by scrapping its appeal against a $750,000 payout to Bruce Trevorrow, who died in June last year after a long illness.

His was the first compensation case involving a member of the stolen generations.

"There is now an opportunity for the state government to show that \'sorry\' didn\'t just mean that we were sorry for past injustices, it also meant that we would work to prevent future injustices," Mr Parnell said.