The Sorry Books were an initiative of the group, Australians for Native Title (ANT), which was formed in June 1997. They were seen as an opportunity for ordinary Australians who wanted to do something in response to the Federal Government's refusal to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.
Each 'Sorry Book' is different in its content. Some pages are covered with rows of signatures without any messages, some have simply written 'I am sorry' while others have written extensive apologies, often on behalf of families and previous generations. Many people have expressed disappointment with the Government and the Prime Minister for their lack of apology. Some point out that this failure prompted them to apologise as individuals.
Many migrants and refugees have signed the books and referred to similar problems with Indigenous peoples in their country of origin. Included here are survivors of the 'Holocaust' in WWII who have made similar apologies. Overseas tourists who have signed the books have also expressed similar sentiments.
Other comments have come from women and mothers who have expressed their feelings about the loss of a child and how they would feel if something similar happened to them. A number of adopted children who have gone through a similar process of displacement and loss of identity have added their comments to the books.
There are a small number of negative statements from those who felt that they could not apologise or saw no reason for an apology. However, their comments are greatly outnumbered by an overwhelming positive response to the books.
On the 10th of August 2004 the collection of 461 Sorry Books held by the AIATSIS Library was inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.