National Apology Day
A dark chapter of Australia's history where thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed into government institutions or adopted out to non-Indigenous families.
“Stolen Generations” refers to the children of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes who were forcibly removed from their families by colonial governments, causing trauma throughout generations. It is estimated that between 10% and 33% of indigenous children between 1910 and 1970 suffered significant trauma and abuse.
History of National Apology Day
On May 26, 1997, Prime Minister John Howard, refused to take the recommendation of many members of parliament and he would not apologize to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the previous government of Australia. A year later, the first National Sorry Day was held on May 26, 1998, in protest of the government’s unwillingness to apologize.
Prime Minister Howard eventually conceded to a motion of Reconciliation in 1999, which many Australians believed fell far short. For a decade, many people protested the lack of a government apology, with National Sorry Day as well as arranging a protest walk to show solidarity with the indigenous people. National Sorry Day came to be called National Day of Healing in 2005, but it still was not enough.
Finally, on February 13, 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the first-ever national apology to the indigenous people of the country. Made as a formal apology on behalf of the parliaments and governments who had damaged the indigenous people, Rudd’s apology was made to the Stolen Generations.
Passed unanimously in both houses of parliament, this motion of Apology to Indigenous Australians in 2008 brought a large gathering of people, many of whom were crying, cheering and clapping in response.
Now, National Apology Day is celebrated as a commemoration of this day and it acts as a remembrance for the trauma faced by the indigenous families.
How to Celebrate National Apology Day
National Apology Day acts as a vital part of Australian and world history. In remembrance of these tragedies, it is important to observe the day. Consider some of these ways to show respect and learn how to make a better future:
Stand in Remembrance
One of the most important activities in honor of National Apology Day is to learn more and educate others about the plight of the Stolen Generation. When humans are able to learn from their atrocious mistakes and seek to make the world a better place moving forward, there is some hope that history will not repeat itself.
Those who live in Australia may consider joining in on a Reconciliation walk or street march, attending an Aboriginal music concert or writing messages in the “sorry books” as a way of showing a commitment toward reconciliation.
Watch the Stolen Generations Film
As part of the process of learning and education about this terrible trauma faced by so many families, consider watching the Australian-made film titled Stolen Generations (2000). With stories told by the survivors of these tragedies, including Bobby Randall, Cleonie Quayle, Daisy Howard, the film brings the story to life with archival footage and clips from television and newsreels on this journey of discovery.