We Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations

Ten years after the release of “Bringing Them Home” (1997) the Human Rights Commission Report of its Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, in 2008, Kevin Rudd, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia apologised to those who were affected by the removal policies, saying,

To the Stolen Generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry. I offer you this apology without qualification.

We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied.

We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments.” (Extract from the speech made by Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2008)

This apology, part of a package of recommended responses in cases of gross violations of human rights (the van Boven principles[1]), was acknowledgement for the deliberate destruction caused by successive governments to our peoples and cultures across the nation.  It was affirmation to all the Stolen Generations, both living and passed for the hurt and the damage caused to them and their families just because of the color of their skin. It was, we believe, the start of a new beginning in race relations in this country.  A beginning that was now based on the truth about what happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families, communities across Australia from the mid 1800’s to the 1970’s.

Regrettably, the apology was the only one of a small number of the 54 recommendations in “Bringing Them Home” that has been implemented in the 20 years since its publication. In commemorating this 10th anniversary we call on governments to address this glaring neglect.

We pay our respects to the Stolen Generations and their families, to those that made it home, to those still searching and to those who rest in the Dreaming with their Ancestors and families.

 

[1] Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law