National Sorry Day
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 3, 5 May 2023, page no. 20
Held every year on 26 May, National Sorry Day is a day of remembrance and acknowledgement of the Stolen Generations – those who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.
The first National Sorry Day took place on 26 May 1998, the first anniversary of the 1997 publication of Bringing Them Home, a parliamentary report detailing the policies and practices used against the Stolen Generations (https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/pdf/social_justice/bringing_them_home_report.pdf).
Under the policy, First Nations children were separated from their families with the intention of assimilation and, in some cases, genocide. These children were forced to adopt a non-Indigenous culture, forbidden from talking in Language, practising Culture, caring for Country, or using the names given to them by their parents.
The report had a number of recommendations, with the key one being that the government should issue a formal apology. This did not occur until a decade later, on 13 February 2008. This is why the anniversary of the apology is different to National Sorry Day, and they are recognised on different dates.
26 May is also significant for another important milestone in First Nations’ history. On 26 May 2017, at the conclusion of the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was delivered. Developed by a 16-member Referendum Council of First Nations and non-First Nations community leaders, the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for Voice. Treaty. Truth.
The purpose of the Uluru Statement is to advise on progress toward a referendum to recognise First Nations peoples in the Australian Constitution. This means First Nations peoples should have a Voice in the laws and policies that directly affect them. A referendum will be held during this term of parliament to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution.
26 May means many different things to many different First Nations people. While it still represents recognition and acknowledgement of past atrocities, it now also represents hope for the future.
For more information on the campaign for a “Yes” vote, please visit https://www.qtu.asn.au/voice-vote-yes