Written by Michael Robertson and the Kurlana Tampawardli team

The National Apology to the Stolen Generation was introduced and offered by Kevin Rudd 12 years ago today.  This was based on recognising individual, family and group trauma suffered as a result of policies of forced child removal and assimilation. It also enshrined and launched further conversations, actions and legislation toward Reconciliation, ensuring future policy never allows policies based on race again.  Between 1997 and 2001 all State and Territory Governments apologised for assimilation and the forced removal of children. At a Federal level, the National Apology came seven years later.

“Bringing Them Home” report

Stolen children lost vital connection to land, culture, language, family and spirit.  The trauma to parents, their extended family and links to land may never be completely healed.  The Stolen Generation are:

  • 10% less likely to have a job
  • 30% less likely to be in good health
  • 50% more likely to be charged by police.

The 1997 Bringing Them Home (Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission) report documented that between 1 and 3 out of every 10 children were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970.  In Queensland and Western Australia, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families were directly affected by removal and assimilation policies for at least 60 years, although formal removal policies began as early as the mid-1800s.

Bringing Them Home spoke to nearly 1000 witnesses and documented policy, practice and outcomes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were forced to abide by, and encouraged appropriate responses.

Uniting Communities’ Commitment

Uniting Communities is committed to reconciliation. The ‘Our Commitment to Reconciliation’ document speaks of ‘respecting the enduring spiritual relationship Aboriginal societies have with the land and sea and the importance of …physical, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.’  It also acknowledges wrongful practices by Government and churches, including the denominations that formed the Uniting Church.

Anniversaries like Apology Day serve as a reminder of how relationships between the First Australians and settlers have improved. However the statistics, outcomes and sometimes shocking narrative among the First Australians indicate there is still a long way to go. Marking this day reveals that the full extent of past wrongs still have not been fully explored. A genuine acknowledgement and action on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as well as truth-telling to achieve healing and justice, is essential to navigating the future.

The Apology was not a personal expression of guilt, just a moment to augment Reconciliation and understand, acknowledge and assist a large number of people in their journey from trauma to something approaching self and group actualisation.