Apology to Aboriginal people recognised in Shepparton

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The chilly morning air did not deter a large crowd from supporting Shepparton’s apology breakfast in the Queens Gardens yesterday.

Organised by Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group, the event acknowledged the 11th anniversary of the apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples.

Community members, from local elders to primary school students, gathered for breakfast and hot drinks before the event started with a welcome to country, smoking ceremony and didgeridoo performance.

On Wednesday, February 13, 2008, the apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples was delivered by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The formal apology was created in consultation with Aboriginal leaders to acknowledge the forced removal of Australian indigenous children from their families, often referred to as the Stolen Generations.

Reconciliation group co-convenor Bobby Nicholls said yesterday was a solemn day for people that had been affected.

‘‘We’re not blaming today’s government but governments make policies and unfortunately a lot of our young children that are elders now have been affected by it,’’ he said.

Mr Nicholls was delighted to see the crowd continued to grow each year.

‘‘I’m proud that not only Aboriginal people are coming here but also non-Aboriginal people are coming along as well as the young ones,’’ he said.

‘‘This is the one way of channelling this type of information out to the wider community, not only here in Shepparton but throughout the whole of Australia.’’

Mr Nicholls and co-convenor Deirdre Robertson spoke about the importance of engaging younger generations in the cause.

‘‘It gives me great pleasure to see a lot of the young students here,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of people don’t know why we have this type of event so it’s important to share this with friends and family.’’

Guests listened to a reading of the apology and heard from guest speakers Ebony Joachim and City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe.

A minute’s silence was held before a musical performance in English and Yorta Yorta language by Lillie Walker.

Mr Nicholls believed there was more work to be done to make sure Aboriginal children remained with their families.

‘‘The child or children should be with their biological parents and instead of ostracising the parent or parents we should be doing a wrap-around service working with them.’’