Today marks the 11th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
It is a landmark day in our national calendar, and for many it was the starting point of our healing journey on the way toward reconciliation.
I say ‘our’ deliberately. I’ve been moved to tears very rarely in my life, but this day 11 years ago moved me.
It is surprising how one word - the word ‘sorry’ - can have such power. Power to heal past hurts, power to give hope for the future, and power to build trust and respect necessary for a new relationship.
Today is an opportunity to reflect on the National Apology delivered by the then Prime Minister, Hon Kevin Rudd MP, on the 13th February 2008. He delivered this apology on behalf of all Australians, and I’d like to share some of his words;
“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
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.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.”
This nation has taken a leap forward, however this work is far from complete.
There is still much to be done, and in order to truly honour the memory and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, actions must continue to match our words.
There is still much to do to roll back the pain and suffering the policies of the time caused, and commit to working together to change our future.
I want all of us to raise our sights from a focus solely on the problems and deficits, and join me in re-affirming this National Apology.
I encourage everyone to actively engage in the task of supporting the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the social and economic life of the nation.
Whilst honouring stolen generations, we must also look forward to future generations, to build strong families and communities.
Only when young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the education, the health and the opportunity of non-Indigenous people of Australia will be anywhere near close to our goal.
Only when we are sure that the first Indigenous Minister won’t be the last can we truly know that the job is done.
Until then, I re-affirm the National Apology, and call on all members of society to do so as well.