National Sorry Day: A time for healing
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 3, 9 April 2021, page no.23
National Sorry Day is observed every year on 26 May. It’s a day for people to come together and share honestly about the steps that are being taken to heal the trauma associated with the forced removal of children from their families and communities – children who lost their cultural and familial identities and many of whom never saw their families again.
On 26 May 1997, "Bringing Them Home", the final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, was tabled in federal parliament. As a result, National Sorry Day has been recognised since 26 May 1998.
The report recommended that Prime Minister John Howard make a public apology to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations. Howard decided against making the apology.
It was not until 13 February 2008 that then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a full apology in his "Sorry" speech: “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”.
This apology does not mean that this complicated area of Australian history is a thing of the past, that somehow an apology should mean that we never have to revisit this history, or we should cease to feel pain from its impact. The apology gives us all a strong platform to inform non-Indigenous Australians about the continued impact of the Stolen Generations and open a dialogue promoting truth telling around the history of Australia.
As Australians who were not directly affected by the forced removal of their children, it is easy to forget, ignore or just not think about what it would be like to be a First Nations Australian whose family has been torn apart by these policies, or a First Nation Australian who lives with the inter-generational trauma of forced removal from Country.
But the effects of the Stolen Generation still live in the hearts and minds of every Indigenous Australian. National Sorry Day is there to remind all Australians that our stories matter. It is a day to remind all of us to find a compassionate way to honour the trauma that First Nations Peoples now hold in their cultural story.
The QTU strongly supports the process of truth-telling, not only from within the structures of our organisation, but also within the curriculum and our classrooms. It is the process of truth-telling that will ultimately lead to healing.
National Sorry Day is an opportunity for you to pause and engage with the uncomfortable in order to do your part to help heal our nation.