This year marks the 12th anniversary of the national apology to the Stolen Generations made on the 13th of February 2008, by our then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. A formal apology was made regarding past wrongdoings, on behalf of the Government, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples which demonstrated a new commitment to Indigenous affairs.
The apology was a historical landmark for Australia’s First Nations Peoples, particularly to those of the Stolen Generation, whose lives were devastated by government policies of forced child removal and Aboriginal assimilation. The apology aimed to close the gap in social inequalities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and sought to lay new foundations for healing in a reconciled Australia. The apology came about as a recommendation from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1995 into the separation of Aboriginal Children from their families. It highlighted the long-term suffering experienced by Indigenous families under discriminative Aboriginal protection and welfare laws and policies. This inquiry led to the Bringing them home report on 26 May 1997, a document containing 54 recommendations on how to rectify the impact of race-based laws and policies implemented by successive Australian governments. After winning the election in 2007, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd put into action the formal apology which took place at Parliament in Canberra and was aired across Australia.
In his apology, Kevin Rudd acknowledged the immeasurable impact that past Government policies and laws have had on the health and wellbeing of our First Nations Peoples. He went on to express hope for resolve in the future, a future where the gap that lies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is lessened through respect, equality and forgiveness.
This date is an important time for all of us to reflect on how generations of First Nations Peoples have been affected, and will continue to be affected, by past policies from our Government. Twelve years on, this is a great time to reflect on what progress has been made. There have been some measurable improvements, with slight increases to life expectancy and a decrease in infant mortality rates. However, unfortunately these numbers still remain above those of non-Indigenous groups.
For the Watarrka Foundation, this reflection reinforces our commitment to creating thriving, independent and self-reliant Aboriginal communities. Through our programs we hope to continue educating the Watarrka community on health, lifestyle and the environment to improve overall quality of life. Of course, we will never erase the pain of past events, but we can assist in the building of an equal world for our First Nation Peoples and provide some sense of hope for the future.
To read the full apology, and for more information visit: https://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples