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No apologies for past policies, Aborigines told

SHARE No apologies for past policies, Aborigines told

The government will never apologize to Aborigines for a past assimilation policy that removed tens of thousands of children from their families, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron said on Friday.

Herron's comment came as newly reelected Prime Minister John Howard launches a push to achieve black and white reconciliation by 2001, when Australia celebrates its centennial."It's gone too far," Herron told Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper, when asked about the possibility of an official apology. "The apology is an attempt at blackmail and that has to be understood."

Herron said Aboriginal people had to achieve reconciliation among themselves because there were deep-seated hostilities between traditional and mixed-blood Aborigines.

Howard has steadfastly refused to issue a government apology to the so-called "Stolen Generation," saying Australians should not be made to feel guilty about their past.

But Aborigines have said reconciliation between black and white Australia is not possible until the government apologizes and delivers a "treaty" recognizing Aboriginal ownership of Australia before European set-tle-ment started in 1788.

"I can see the validity of both sides of the argument, but I'm past (it, I'm) beyond that now . . . you've got to put the past behind you," Herron said.

Aborigines have called for Herron to be sacked and want a new minister appointed and increased funding for Aborigines before they will consider reconciliation.