Bringing them home

On 26 May 1997 the former Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal Children from their Families Bringing them home report was tabled in National Parliament.

The report contained 54 recommendations to redress the wrongs done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, homes and communities. A key recommendation of the Bringing them home report was the need for official acknowledgement of, and apology for, the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. All the state and territory governments issued apologies for the laws, policies and practices which had governed forcible removal.

The forced removal of Aboriginal children was designed to assimilate Aboriginal people, broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties and has left a lasting and intergenerational impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These children are known as The Stolen Generations.

Why a National Apology

In 1998 thousands of Australians participated in Sorry Book campaign, which culminated in the first National Sorry Day on 26 May 1998. This campaign, a grassroots movement was described as ‘the people’s apology’. Between 1997 and 1999 all State and Territory Parliaments officially apologised to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities.

In 1999, the Australian Government offered a Motion of Reconciliation in the National Parliament, which expressed “deep and sincere regret” and for the next ten years making a National Apology was continually rejected by the Australian Government.

In May 2000, in support of reconciliation and a protest of the Australian Government’s inability to officially apologise, nearly 250,000 Australians walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and thousands more walked across bridges around the country. As the people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, above them in the sky a plane scribed ‘SORRY’ an iconic image of the times.

In 2007, the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Kevin Rudd, MP began consulting with Indigenous Australians about the form of a National apology. 

On Tuesday 12 February 2008, the Australian Government publicly issued a National Apology to the Stolen Generation. It was an important step in the healing process for the many hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations.

Further reading and sources 

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