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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 13 February 2018) . . Page.. 24 ..

publicly acknowledged. The apology was delivered in response to the Bringing Them Home report which was tabled in the Australian parliament on 26 May 1997 and outlined the extent of the forced removal of children from their families throughout much of the 20th century. While all states and territories, including the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1997, had formally apologised to the stolen generations, the national apology was a key moment in the healing and reconciliation process.

I know that for many it was a moment imprinted in memory as the words were finally spoken:

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

These formal apologies have been important steps towards building a respectful relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians. Many stolen generations members felt that their pain and suffering was at last acknowledged and that the nation understood the need to right the wrongs of the past. Reflecting on that day 10 years ago, IndigenousX host Steve Bunbadgee Hodder Watt said:

Schoolchildren of all backgrounds waved Aboriginal flags while Kutcha Edwards and John Butler sang the Aboriginal land rights anthem, From Little Things Big Things Grow. Strangers felt closer to one another as a sense of unity washed over the crowd. The elderly survivors cried and embraced each other.

It was easy to get caught up in the emotional grandeur, or even the novelty of the day, but the occasion carried extra weight for our peoples. It isn’t often that we get to celebrate the official, widespread acknowledgement of an injustice, especially with the non-Indigenous community celebrating alongside us. I can count on my hands the brief moments in Australian history where we actually became lost in a sea of collective emotion.

The ongoing work of the Healing Foundation and Reconciliation Australia has been instrumental in advocating for and supporting continued progress. Such progress has included, in many jurisdictions, statutory reparations or compensation schemes. I was pleased to hear yesterday the national Labor leader, Bill Shorten, commit an incoming Labor government to a compensation scheme for members of the stolen generations in the ACT and the Northern Territory. As Mr Shorten has said in this regard, territorians, are still waiting for saying sorry to be matched by making good.

As we commemorate the anniversary of the national apology it is time to both reflect on the past and re-energise our collective efforts to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia, including in the ACT, continue to face a legacy of disadvantage, dislocation and profound trauma as a result of past practices. The ACT government is committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to find solutions to challenges that persist today as a legacy of past policies and decisions.

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