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National Sorry Day 2016

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Mother and child photo by Heide Smith

Today, as we commemorate Sorry Day, we remember and honour the many Aboriginal people who were forcibly removed as children from their families and taken to institutions, foster homes or into adoption.

We remember and honour those who have passed as well as their descendants. We think of our Stolen Generation community members who live today with the profound grief, suffering and loss as a result of the government’s systematic removal policies.

We reflect also on the extent of the impact of the policies of forced removal across our community.  We know that few Indigenous families have not been touched by the loss of family members, and the journey to reunite and reform those bonds of family, community and identity.

This is a special day for us here at the Australian Human Rights Commission because it was our first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Professor Mick Dodson who began the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families publishing the findings and recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report in 1997 (the BtH Report). The BtH Report told to the Australian community, the stories long known to the Aboriginal community of misguided policies, often brutally enforced.

The BtH Report is dedicated to ‘those who found the strength to tell their stories to the Inquiry and to the generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people separated from their families and communities. It is a tribute to the strength and struggles of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by forcible removal.

The words of the BtH Reports’ dedication still captures perfectly the sentiments for this National Sorry Day 2016:

We acknowledge the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. We remember and lament all the children who will never come home.

Eleven years after the BtH Report called for a national apology to the Stolen Generation the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd apologised on behalf of the country. This was an important moment in the healing journey of the nation.Today, organisations like Link-Up and the Healing Foundation continue to support members of the Stolen Generation and their families, recognising their courage and resilience, and focusing on creating brighter, stronger futures for individuals and the community.