Apology reflection

February 14, 2018

Siblings Lillie and Chris Walker who contributed to the proceedings at the breakfast.

Shepparton’s Renai Dean spoke about attending the apology event 10 years ago and the changes since.

The event was well attended with hundreds turning out to the Queen’s Gardens in Shepparton.

‘‘For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.’’

These were just some of the famous words then prime minister Kevin Rudd said during his 2008 national apology speech to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Exactly 10 years on, hundreds gathered at Queen’s Gardens to commemorate the anniversary at the Shepparton Apology Breakfast.

Shepparton’s Renai Dean attended the event 10 years ago with Fran Smullen and she reflected on the progress since that day at the breakfast.

‘‘More truth telling must be engaged in. We need to discuss the facts,’’ she said.

Ms Dean highlighted the fact that just three of the seven recommendations in the then-implemented equality strategy Closing the Gap had been completed one decade later.

‘‘Things have changed, but at a very slow rate,’’ she said.

Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group chairman Uncle Bobby Nicholls agreed, saying although the apology was incredibly important, more work needed to be done when it came to bridging the gap in equality.

‘‘Unfortunately there are people who are still hurting,’’ he said.

‘‘There are still people today who are still traumatised.’’

Uncle Bobby said he would be eager to see how things had progressed in another 10 years.

‘‘I’d like to see all seven recommendations implemented,’’ he said.

Guests were touched by an emotional performance from schoolgirl Lillie Walker, who sang two songs after her brother Chris Walker had spoken.

Mr Walker said he’d heard Kevin Rudd’s apology while he was in school.

‘‘All I could take from it at such a young age was indigenous Australians of the Stolen Generation were finally being heard,’’ he said.

‘‘As time passed on, I understood the pain and sadness in such a dark place of our history.’’

Before wrapping up proceedings, Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group co-convenor Deirdre Robertson provided guests with some ways they could help to make a change.

‘‘Education is a really important tool — it gives us the power to make change,’’ she said.

She encouraged community members to get involved with indigenous groups including Rumbalara Football Netball Club or Gallery Kaiela as well as to read and develop a broader understanding of the issues indigenous people are faced with.

‘‘Contact Federal MPs to ask for more action when it comes to Closing the Gap,’’ she said.

It was announced this week the Closing the Gap targets towards child mortality rates, early childhood education and Year 12 attainment were on track.

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