13th February 2023 marked the 15th year since Kevin Rudd’s 2008 National Apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Parliament of Australia.
The National Apology followed apologies from all state and territory parliaments between 1997 and 2001 for the practices and policies which systemically removed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, communities and country in the mid-to late-1800s to the 1970s, in an attempt to assimilate our First Nations people into the non-Indigenous (and predominantly ‘white’) population.
The 1997 Bringing Them Home report resulted from an Inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families which found between 1 in 10 and 3 in 10 children were forcibly removed in the years between 1910 and 1970.
Bringing them Home showed that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities have been affected by past child removal practices. It acknowledged “the truth is that the past is very much with us today, in the continuing devastation of the lives of Indigenous Australians. That devastation cannot be addressed unless the whole community listens with an open heard and mind to the stories of what has happened in the past.”
On 13 February and on May 26 (National Sorry Day) we pause to listen and to remember. We acknowledge that many of those directly affected are still alive today, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities continue to suffer the ongoing effects of forcible child removal, including intergenerational trauma and a range of social and health problems.
Research shows that trauma spreads from one generation to the next. The trauma experienced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Australia continues to contribute to underlying problems such as family violence, substance abuse, suicide, high incarceration rates and the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being placed in the protection system.
In 2023, there is still much work to do to fulfil the journey of healing and to bring them home.
Bringing Them Home: Stories of the Stolen Generations (Human Rights Commission) – also Bringing Them Home Report
The Stolen Generations (AIATSIS) – includes links for videos of Kevin Rudd’s Apology and the response from Tom Calma, then the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
Bringing Them Home: 20 years on (Healing Foundation, 2017)
The Apology – 10th anniversary (Reconciliation Australia, 2018)