On this day in 2008 then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, officially recognised the generations of children forcibly taken from their families and their country in the name of public policy. He offered a formal, public apology to the victims of forced child removal, especially the Stolen Generations, as his first item of business when Parliament opened on February 13th. The occasion was witnessed by thousands of people gathered in and around Parliament House for the event and was broadcast all over the country. Reconciliation Australia’s video highlights some key moments of the day.
I was privileged to be in the gallery that day with my family as Rudd apologised on behalf of Australia for the pain and suffering these actions caused. It was an emotional moment and I dearly wish my grandmother could have been there to see it happen. She was born to a white father and an Aboriginal mother at a time when government policy made it ‘necessary’ to remove ‘half caste’ children to institutions far away from their home and culture. I can only imagine the trauma her and her family experienced when she was taken to Darwin’s Kahlin compound from her Desert homelands of the Jingili people. I do know that the implications of those policies, the trauma and the loss, will be felt for generations, for all the families effected.
The State Library of Queensland recorded prominent Queenslanders’ responses to the apology which tell of the personal significance and experiences of the apology. These stories can be seen here and are apart of the library’s online collection and the 7995 Apology Project digital stories and oral histories collection.
Dr Tom Calma, then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, in his formal response to the Apology stated:
“Through one direct act, the parliament has acknowledged the existence and the impacts of past policies and practices of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families, and by doing so has paid respect to the Stolen Generations for their suffering and their loss, and for their resilience, and ultimately, for their dignity.”