Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 13 February 2018) . . Page.. 27 ..
National Apology to the Stolen Generation—Ten Year Anniversary—Ministerial statement, 13 February 2018.
That the Assembly take note of the paper.
MS ORR (Yerrabi) (11.18): I rise to make a contribution on this 10th anniversary of the apology to the stolen generations. Firstly I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this land on which I am speaking and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. On this day 10 years ago our nation changed for the better. The national apology to the stolen generations marked a significant point in Australia’s journey towards recognition and reconciliation for our first nations peoples.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the national apology on 13 February 2008. This apology was not just a symbolic gesture to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it was the first time in our history that the commonwealth government stood with humility and apologised for the injustices that had occurred to Indigenous Australians. You know a day is framed in the psyche of a country when you can say to someone, “Where were you when this happened?” Like many of us, I remember exactly where I was on the day Prime Minister Rudd delivered the apology.
I was working in a cafe in Manuka and a lot of people had come into the cafe that morning to get breakfast before going to the apology. As everyone was leaving to go to the start of the ceremonies there were just two tables left, one lady, an Indigenous lady, and her son, and another person who was one of our regulars and who always came in. The regular came up to me when she came to pay and said, “I would like to grab their bill as well. It is the least I can do.” For me, that was an indication that it is not just an apology; it is an acknowledgement of these people; it brings them forward; it brings us all together; it makes us think that small gesture can go a long way. Obviously the lady whose breakfast was paid for was very chuffed and was a little surprised. She said to me, “No-one has ever done anything like this for me before.”
Ten years later I still remember this episode perfectly because it is a case of, like I said, a little bit of recognition going a long way, and people who previously felt forgotten or frozen out of the conversation really came front and centre on that day and ever since.
The road to the apology is considered to have begun with the tabling of the Bringing them home report in 1997. It was finally, at that time, that the effects of laws, practices and policies that separated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was first placed on the record. It brought the issue to the forefront of the national conscience and began the conversation on Australia’s treatment of Indigenous Australians.
In 2018 Australia has come a long way on the journey towards reconciliation. However, we still have a way to go. With the release of the 2018 Closing the gap report this week, the Prime Minister highlighted that just three of the seven Closing