Acknowledging past wrongs

National Apology Day in Australia will be observed on February 13. On Monday, we commemorate the first-ever national apology made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008 to reset the federal government’s rehabilitation, justice, and reconciliation agenda for all Indigenous Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families.


National Apology Day remembers the official apology to the tens of thousands of children and families traumatised by forced child removal and assimilation government policies.

It is separate to National Sorry Day, or the National Day of Healing, which is held on May 26.


National Sorry Day marks the initial tabling of the Bringing Them Home report in the federal Parliament. The report was the result of a 1995 inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into government policies and practices between 1910 and the 1970s. Those policies forcefully separated many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.


The affected children, known as the ‘Stolen Generations’ — estimated to be 10% to 33% of all Indigenous children between 1910 and the 1970s — suffered significant abuse and trauma, as they had to live under harsh conditions and abusive treatment, and were compelled to reject their Indigenous heritage.


The report also made recommendations for addressing past wrongs, including the issuance of formal apologies by state and federal governments, and the provision of funding to rehabilitate the victims.


Prime Minister Rudd subsequently issued a formal public apology on behalf of the federal government for the policies which inflicted grief, suffering, and loss on the Stolen Generations.


Both houses of parliament unanimously adopted the apology as a motion. There was widespread emotion across the country as thousands of Australians gathered in public spaces to hear the apology.


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