‘‘... Today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
‘‘We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations — this blemished chapter in our nations history.’’
So said the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the historic National Apology to the Stolen Generations on February 13, 2008.
The Stolen Generations.
These three words that represent so much pain, deep loss and heartache.
‘‘... We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country...’’
Children, often infants, and young ones torn from the arms of loving families only because of their race.
‘‘... For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry...’’
Children who were placed in uncaring, hostile institutions, taught to be servants, farm hands — in effect a form of slavery.
Children who lost connection to their country, culture, language and communities.
Children whose links to their families were often irretrievably broken, whose lives were traumatically changed.
Children who never came home.
‘‘... To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry...’’
Families and communities who lived in fear of the black government car coming to snatch their children away, often never to be returned.
Families and communities whose loss of children was often repeated over generations.
‘‘... And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture we say sorry...’’
This is why we have Sorry Day. To acknowledge those who still live with the painful consequences of this forcible removal.
So this part of our history is not forgotten. So we pause to consider the trauma and impact of such brutal government policies.
To acknowledge the intergenerational suffering and ongoing impacts that continue to reverberate in communities today.
And to remember and lament those children who never came home.
The Bringing Them Home Report, tabled in Federal Parliament in 1997 laid out in graphic detail the significant and ongoing impacts of successive government policies relating to the removal of children.
A National Apology to the Stolen Generations and their families and communities and the Implementation of an annual Sorry Day now held on May 26, the anniversary of the tabling of the report — were two of the 54 recommendations of this report that have been adopted.
Most have been ignored or only partially implemented.
As reported in The Guardian in May 2017 on the 20th anniversary of the tabling of the report, ‘‘The failure to implement the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report has prolonged the social burden of trauma caused by forced child removals and potentially exposed another generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to harm’’.
Twenty-two years after the release of the report, Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families in unprecedented numbers and are disproportionately represented in juvenile justice and detention facilities.
This is now the challenge for us all.
This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme ‘‘Grounded in Truth, walk together with courage’’ encourages us all to listen and hear these stories so, together, we can change our future. Sorry Day is part of this truth telling.
We invite you to join with us as we acknowledge this history through our local Sorry Day Commemorations on Monday, May 27 in Shepparton.
Flag-raising, Commemoration and Commemorative Walk: 10.15am at Monash Park, cnr Welsford and Fryers Sts.
Sorry Day Sunset Ceremony: 5pm at La Trobe University on the corner of North and Stewart Sts.