With Sorry Day coming up, this time of year is a time when we see people starting to reflect on the past treatment of Aboriginal people and the impact of removal policies that created the Stolen Generations. People come together to offer acknowledgement and support to Aboriginal communities who live with the ongoing trauma of the past.
With it comes a barrage of ignorant opinions about how we just need to get over it. The failure to recognise why we say sorry is not a new thing. Nor is it novel that people fail to see the healing that comes with acknowledgement and fail to look beyond the mainstream narrative about Aboriginal people to see the intergenerational trauma we are dealing with. Each year this becomes more frustrating.
There is an increasing number of Aboriginal people sharing their stories, shining a light on truth and working to close the knowledge gap so that people can start to understand why sorry is so important.
I have shared before about my Aunt who suffered dementia and relived the removal of her children over and over and over again. I will never forget the first time I watched her go through that experience. I felt nausea and a knot in my stomach at the realisation of what was happening and that she could not escape it. Not that day, not ever.
As she made me hide in the cupboard to protect me from being taken, I knew that I was safe, that there was no risk to me.
As she told me to hide under the bed, I was focussed on soothing her, not worried about what might happen to me next.
As she told me she loved me like she would never get to tell me again, I knew that it would not be the last time.
But for her, in those moments, there was not that relief. Her fears were real. She was reliving the worst days of her life, the trauma fresh and never ending.
For her children, watching her relive this experience was undoubtedly painful as they not only felt their mother’s trauma but also their own. There was no reassurance for them when they were taken. They did not know what would happen to them. They did not know when, or if, they would see their mother again. They could not still their fears with the knowledge that it would be ok because they didn’t know that it would be. None of the stolen generations could. And it wasn’t ok.
As we are left with the job of healing, trying to connect all that was lost, we aren’t asking you to take personal responsibility for the past, we are asking you to show empathy and understanding as you acknowledge our story and the journey we are forced to travel.
Survivors of the Stolen Generations and their families navigate the impact of those past policies daily. It may not be reliving the day as my aunt was forced to do but the trauma is evident and the healing far from done. As people struggle with the loss of connection, loss of culture and loss of identity that occurred because they or someone in their family was stolen, we need Australia to see that the acknowledgement of the trauma, suffering and loss that comes with Sorry is an important part of that healing.
This year as you reflect on Sorry Day and you see the inevitable increase in racism, encourage people to get educated, raise awareness about the true history of Australia and the work Aboriginal people are doing to heal.
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