National Sorry Day

Aboriginal children of Carrolup in the early 1940s. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History.

Aboriginal children from Western Australia. J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History. [217091PD]

Today, 26th of May, is National Story Day here in Australia.

National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities. We now know these people as ‘The Stolen Generations’.

National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generations Survivors and reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Luke Pearson, CEO of IndigenousX, said today on his Twitter account:

‘The first Sorry Day was held in 1998 on the anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report being tabled in parliament. Sorry Day isn’t just a day of remembrance, it‘s a call to action to implement the 54 recommendations from the report… saying sorry wasn’t the only recommendation.’

Too few of these recommendations have been addressed over the years.

I strongly recommend reading the Bringing them Home Report (1997), although you’ll need to set aside some serious time to do this. It is a quite remarkable document.

I can also strongly recommend that you watch the Bringing them Home educational video, which is highly informative and deeply moving. In this film [21’13” – 22’18”], Sir Ronald Wilson, Chairman of the Australian Human Rights Commission, says:

‘It was genocide. I didn’t know it at the beginning, but I since have no doubt that it was genocide. One of the definitions of genocide is the fifth clause in the definition in the Genocide Convention, and it says “The removing of children from their communities with a view to extinguishing their culture.” Now, you’ve only got to say that to appreciate that it was genocide. That’s exactly what the assimilation policy was all about in its effect.

In taking these children, whatever the motives and however good they were, it nevertheless was a necessary part of the practice, the policy, to separate them from their families and their communities in order to extinguish their culture. And it was not only their culture – their connection with land, that important connection with which is really part of an Aboriginal person’s very being – and it was clearly genocide.’ 

It is not enough to just say, ‘Sorry’. We must never forget what has happened to The Stolen Generations. We must work to right the wrongs that have been done. We must fully address the 54 recommendations of the Bringing them Home Report (1997).

We must celebrate the strength and resilience of Aboriginal Peoples.

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