National Sorry Day in Australia, 2023

National Sorry Day in Australia.

The 26th of May every year is National Sorry Day in Australia.

It is an event held annually in Australia on 26 May, to commemorate the Stolen Generations.

Many Australians ask: “why should I apologise?”

That is actually a very good question.

Why should the millions of people who have migrated to Australia, and become Australian citizens, apologise for something done before they even arrived in this country.

The Australian government has already apologised officially for the actions of the government in those earlier years.

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Most people accept that the word “Sorry” is a word they use to apologise for something that they have done.

27.6% of the Australian population were born overseas, and had no involvement in these official policies.

Over 99% of the Australian population had no involvement in these official policies.

The first National Sorry Day was observed in 1998, and in 2005 a motion to rename the day “The National Day of Healing,” was passed.

Many Australian people would accept the 26th May as a “National Day of Healing“, rather than a day that they should say “sorry” for something they did not do, not have any control over.

I personally would prefer to think of it as a “National Day of Remembrance of the Stolen Generations“.

That wording would allow everyone to look back at what happened, and remember the people that it applied to, without needing to think “Why do I have to apologise for something done by the government of a country that I had never been in when it happened“.

In 2008, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a formal apology to the Stolen Generations, on behalf of the Australian government that carried out these actions between 1910 and the 1970s.

This apology was especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities, and their country. This apology extended to the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants, and for their families left behind.

During the 1930s to 1982, these government actions also removed about 250,000 Australian-born non-Indigenous children from parents who were deemed “unfit”, and forcibly adopted. The term “white stolen generations” has been used by survivors of this practice.

The Stolen Generations.

In Australia, between 1910 and the 1970s, governments, churches and welfare bodies forcibly removed many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. These children became known as the Stolen Generations. Their removal was sanctioned by various government policies (AIATSIS 2022a), which have left a legacy of trauma and loss that continues to affect First Nations communities, families and individuals today.

In 2008, in what is now regarded as a conservative estimate, a government speech stated that the number of Stolen Generation children was made up of 7,000 to 10,000 child migrants, 30,000 to 50,000 Aboriginal stolen
generations children and the 450,000-plus Australian born non-Indigenous children that were
raised in orphanages, children’s homes and foster care.

The 2008 Stolen Generations Apology.

13 February 2008 : Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia.

I move:
That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
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.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

— Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, 13 February 2008, at a sitting of the Parliament of Australia.

The White Stolen Generations.

12 Mar 2008 : Senator Andrew Murray.

During the last parliamentary sitting Prime Minister Rudd delivered the long-awaited apology to the Indigenous stolen generations. It was indeed a fine and moving speech, a historic moment that I trust will be the beginning of a new way forward for Indigenous Australians. I am already on the record as welcoming this apology.
However, in speaking to Senator Evans’s motion on it, I stressed the need for another national apology to be delivered to former child migrants and to those non-Indigenous Australian-born children raised in care, people who often refer to themselves as the white stolen generations.

12 Mar 2008 : Senator Andrew Murray in reply to the Governor-General’s Speech at Parliament House, Canberra.

Margaret Hamilton, from ALAS – Adoption Loss Adult Support, said: There are over 250,000 white mothers who lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by the same past illegal adoption practices as Aboriginal mothers. Should they receive an apology?”

Monica Wallabindi who sang “Beer Bottle Baby”, a song about her relatives who were forcibly removed from their family as part of the Stolen Generation, said:

It’s not about making anyone feel personally guilty or responsible, or putting blame on people who are here now, it’s just about learning about our past, our collective past here in Australia. To know that, I think, is a responsibility of every Australian“.

Her words make more sense to a “National Day of Remembrance of the Stolen Generations” naming of the day.

Should it be called:

National Day of Remembrance of the Stolen Generations?

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