Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 242 ..
through showers. Then they were seated, naked, on low benches, fed porridge, which often ended up all over them in the ensuing chaos. Then afterwards they were herded back through the showers, dressed and returned to the care of their grandmothers.
We also handed out powdered milk and other quite unnecessary so-called rations, as their mothers were not encouraged to keep feeding their babies at the breast as they, the mothers, were needed to work on the missions, not to feed their babies. As you can imagine, the practice of feeding the babies and toddlers in this way led to continued episodes of illness.
Fortunately, by the time I reached Milingimbi and Yirrkala, practices were more enlightened but continued to be paternalistic. It was not until my family was leaving to come south in the early 1970s that the Aboriginal people were experiencing self-determination.
I only tell you this story to highlight the environment in which these policies, these policies that we are saying sorry for today, were enacted and in which they thrived. It is not an excuse to say we did not know any better. I was caught up in this system, knowing it was terribly wrong but not knowing how to fix it. So yesterday was a healing day for me too and for my children.
Today I stand in this place and say sorry, sorry that I was part of that system. I join with you all in this place and say sorry in reaffirming the Assembly’s apology.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (11.44): Might I join with everyone who so far has spoken in favour of this motion. I agree very much with the sentiments and comments made by everyone and, indeed, with some personal stories in there by people as well.
Apart from Mr Speaker, I am probably the only member of the Assembly who was here back in 1997 when we passed an historic, unanimous motion after the Bringing them home report. It is worthy perhaps in this debate to read out some paragraphs of that. The Assembly on that occasion, on 17 June 1997:
(1) apologises to the Ngun(n)awal people and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT for the hurt and distress inflicted upon any people as a result of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families;
(2) assures the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Territory that the Assembly regards the past practices of forced separation as abhorrent and expresses the Assembly’s sincere determination that they will not happen in the ACT;
(3) affirms its commitment to a just and proper outcome for both the grievances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people adversely affected by those policies and the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report;
(4) acknowledges that the Government is negotiating a Regional Agreement with the Ngun(n)awal people in relation to the Ngun(n)awal Native Title Claim in the ACT; and