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HREOC media release: Saying sorry is essential for moving forward

Commission Commission – General

30 January 2008

Saying sorry is essential for moving forward

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner said saying sorry to members of the Stolen Generations is an essential step in healing and progressing life outcomes for Indigenous Australians and congratulated the federal government for its announcement today that it would make a formal apology on 13 February.

“I welcome the commitment by the Prime Minister to make this national apology on behalf of the Australian Government and see it as an historic opportunity to unite Australia,” Mr Calma said.

“An apology that acknowledges the existence and the impact of this dark aspect of our history where Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families, and which pays respect to the Stolen Generations for their suffering, their resilience and their dignity, is an early and exceptional sign of goodwill from the new government.

“I have been encouraged by the government’s consultative approach and its willingness to recognise and engage with Indigenous communities. This is evident by its decision for a Welcome to Country to be delivered as part of the opening ceremony for Parliament by Elder Matilda House on behalf of the Ngunnawal People on 12 February,” Mr Calma said.

Commissioner Calma said the experiences of the Stolen Generations differed significantly: with some people having reconnected with their families and finding peace; while for others the passage of time has been too great and they have discovered their family history too late.

“The government’s commitment to a formal apology will directly benefit members of the Stolen Generations by validating their experiences,” Mr Calma said.

“It will also benefit Australian society as a whole by re-building respect and reinforcing a reconciled Australia, where we can all feel proud that our national story and aspirations are shared.”

Commissioner Calma said he looked forward to working with the government to implement all the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) 1997 ‘Bringing them home’ report.

“The forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families is an episode in our history of which we are rightly ashamed,” Mr Calma said.

“I look forward to a commitment from the federal Parliament to partnerships with Indigenous peoples and to continuing to work to address the legacy of the Stolen Generations,” Mr Calma said.

Media contact: Louise McDermott on (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597