The National Apology
Message from the Minister for Indigenous Affairs
The apology to the Australian Indigenous Peoples by the Australian Prime Minister on behalf of the Australian Government was made on 13 February 2008. The Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) acknowledges the anniversary of the apology and to commemorate the historic occasion, this section of the DIA website has been developed to provide relevant information about Stolen Generations.
The Indigenous Implementation Board and the Apology
The two years that have passed since the Prime Minister’s Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13th February 2008 have been laden with the expectation of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. While much has happened in the name of the Apology over that time, there remains deep frustration that the lives and the prospects for participation of most Aboriginal people have not improved. Much remains to be done to fulfill the obligations implied in the Prime Minister’s speech.
In keeping with its commitment to making real improvements in the lives of Indigenous Western Australians the Barnett Government established the Indigenous Implementation Board in February 2009 to “advise the State Government on how to identify and cut through the obstacles and really improve social and economic outcomes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” In turn, the Board has been following a new strategy of partnership, one that is designed to establish a powerful Aboriginal voice across the State and to lift the responsiveness of all agencies, both Government and non-government, to that voice.
We all need to acknowledge that there are fundamental changes required to the processes of Government to match the expectations aroused by the dramatic event now known as the Apology and which we celebrate on 13th February. Fortunately, there is a growing awareness among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of the benefits of placing Government closer to the people and the places they live. To fully share in the future of Australia, and to restore their culture to new levels of awareness, Aboriginal people need to take the Apology at face value and grasp the opportunities it offers to them and the nation.
The Stolen Generations is a term used to describe the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children removed from their families and communities by the Australian Government through most of the twentieth century.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission started a national inquiry into the practice of removing children, established by Federal Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch in 1995 and the Bringing them home report was tabled in Parliament in 1997. The report recommended that a National Sorry Day be held each year on 26 May to acknowledge the history of forcible removals and its effects, so the healing process could begin. As a result the National Sorry Day Committee was formed.
Another key recommendation, was that reparation be made to Indigenous people affected by policies of forced removal, including an acknowledgement of responsibility and apology from all Australian Parliaments and agencies which implemented policies of forcible removal.
State Governments apologised specifically to those affected by the policies of separation, with the exception of the ACT. The Commonwealth Government expressed deep and sincere regret for unspecified past injustices as part of a Motion of Reconciliation in 1999, but did not apologise until 2008.
The apology made by the Australian Government on 13 February 2008 was important for the healing process for those affected. The word sorry has special meaning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The apology by the Australian Government was an important step in achieving Reconciliation, removing barriers to establishing respectful relationships. Reconciliation is an important step needed to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
Transcript of the Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples
National Sorry Day Committee
Stolen Generations Alliance
Reconciliation Australia - Fact Sheet on the apology
Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families - April 1997 (Bringing Them Home Report)
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR)
Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation
Australia Government Culture Portal
Motion of reconciliation