Bravo to Australia’s new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for boldly leading the effort to ease ancient tensions by organizing an official apology to his country’s indigenous people, the Aborigines.Even better, Mr. Rudd said he will now move to back up the apology with a plan to ensure, within five years, that every four-year-old Aboriginal child in remote regions of Australian attends kindergarten.The apology was the first priority of Mr. Rudd’s center-left Labor government when it was sworn in on Tuesday, replacing the 11-year administration of John Howard, who for years refused to apologize for the wrongs of past governments.It was directed in particular at the so-called “Stolen
Generations,” tens of thousands of indigenous children who were removed, sometimes forcibly, from their families in a policy of assimilation that only ended in the 1970s. Even today, Aborigines are Australia’s poorest and most disadvantaged group, one with extremely high rates of unemployment and alcoholism and shorter-than-average life expectancies.

“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry,” Mr. Rudd said in a speech to parliament. He also spoke of removing “a stain from the soul of Australia.”

The United States, of course, has its own stain from the way it horribly mistreated, and in some ways still mistreats, Native Americans. Native Americans still fare woefully on a wide array of social measures, from education to health, and our own government is doing too little about it.

We wrote about one example of mistreatment only yesterday — the nuclear power industry’s talk about resuming uranium mining near a Navajo reservation.

We hope that Australia uses the apology as an opportunity to move forward. That means implementing the kindergarten commitment and going beyond that to further reduce income and other disparities between Aborigines and other Australians. Mr. Rudd’s proposal for a “war cabinet” on indigenous policy — and the decision by opposition leader Brendan Nelson of the Liberal Party to co-chair the group — is a welcome bipartisan start.

Perhaps now real reconciliation in Australian society can begin.