Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations

This year marks the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of the Australian Parliament.

Our thoughts are with the Stolen Generations, the men and women in our program and everyone affected by the past government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation.

The Stolen Generations refer to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were removed from their families by Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions between 1910 and 1970 through a policy of assimilation.

The journey to the National Apology began with the Bringing Them Home report in 1995 — which stated:

…that all Australian Parliaments officially acknowledge the responsibility of their predecessors for the laws, policies and practices of forcible removal.

On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples on behalf of the Australian Parliament.

The apology in full was as follows:

I move that today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia

Image: “Stolen Generation” 2020, Clinton A (Wiradjuri people), “This painting represents the Stolen Generation and how they went from mission to mission chaining our children up together and taking them to Cummeragunja Barmah Forest, which is Yorta Yorta Country. The long-necked turtle is the totem there, with the black and white dots representing the death of the Yorta Yorta tribe.”