On Monday May 21, the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman handed over the land title to the traditional lands at Archer River in Cape York which had been claimed 35 years ago by John Koowarta. But he went one step further. He apologised for the actions and denials of earlier governments, writes Frank Brennan in ABC Online.
"Today I want to confront the issue. That is, 35 years ago a great injustice was perpetrated. And today we're here to put that right. We're here to make sure that it is right forever, and to give back to the people what was rightfully theirs.
"'m sure, if all Queenslanders knew the story of what happened in 1977 and afterwards, they would feel as sorry as I do myself. So today, my apologies to those who have suffered."
When asked by journalist Peter McCutcheon on ABC 7.30 what this apology meant to them, traditional owners were delighted. Alan Creek said, "It means a great deal for us, what has happened over the last 30 years." John Koowarta's widow, Martha, said, "I'm really proud. Big surprise for me."
For me, many memories came flooding back. Aurukun, on the west coast of Cape York in Northern Queensland, was dry in May 1982 - no rain and no grog allowed. A drunken but happy Aboriginal man staggered towards me, introducing himself: "I Johnny Koowarta."
He apologised for being drunk and explained that he had just returned from Weipa, a mining town to the north where the Albatross Hotel served alcohol to all comers. In his broken English, Mr Koowarta explained, "I bin breakin' the seal of the Queensland government. Me first man break that seal."
I realised this was the person who the previous week had won an historic victory in the High Court of Australia against the Queensland government.
FULL STORY Reconciliation and the political virtue of apology (ABC)