10 years ago today I was standing in Martin Place in Sydney, watching then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd make history by apologising to the members of the Stolen Generation for the wrongs that had been done against them under the policies of previous Australian Governments.
I stood with a group of Aboriginal women, my colleagues who have spent their careers trying to make a difference and make things better for our people. Some of these women are members of the Stolen Generation. We cried, we hugged and we cheered. There was a sense of relief, weight lifted off shoulders and hope for a new beginning, a way forward where true healing might finally begin. We cried for each other, our families who have all been effected by those policies and the future generations who will also be effected by the trauma that came before them. We cried for those family members who had not yet made their way back to our families and for those who we knew, might be lost forever.
It was a great day, filled with so much promise and today I commemorate that historic moment. I think about the impact those three words – I am sorry – had that day. The impact on those who were stolen; those who were left behind; the communities that have since struggled to pick up the pieces; the mothers; the fathers; the children; the aunts and uncles; all suffering a loss that I cannot even truly begin to understand, despite watching the devastating impact on my community every day.
I am sorry. Such powerful words and such a momentous day.
But today, I also reflect on how little progress we as a nation have made since that great day. Aboriginal people still face appalling racism, we still deal with people who do not know or acknowledge the struggle Aboriginal people faced and how resilient our communities are. We are still faced with poor government decisions, a lack of consultation and outcomes that fall short of the national averages. It is time for Australia to move forward but it can’t do that without acknowledgement, understanding and a commitment to change. The Apology could have been the start but in my opinion we didn’t have the education to support the necessary change. We need strong Aboriginal education for all Australians. We need to build a shared knowledge base and create an understanding of Australia’s true history and work from there. It is not going to be easy and like this country’s history, it’s certainly not going to be pleasant but it is necessary and it is time. It is not about blame. It is not about guilt. It is about acknowledgement, respect and understanding. It is about healing.
I hope that you get to some of the great events being held around the country to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Apology and take a moment to reflect on what the Apology meant for all Australians, particularly for the Stolen Generations who will forever live with the consequences of abhorrent government policy.
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