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New book on Sorry Day and Apology movement calls for more community leadership

'A must-read … calls for us all to keep Aboriginal children in their families, in their culture.'  Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett, Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung woman, La Trobe University

'An invaluable contribution to a process of truth-telling.'  Emeritus Professor Mick Dodson, member of the Yawuru peoples, ANU College of Law

'Tells important truths, but also contains a message of hope. We can all be agents of change.'  Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd AC

If First Nations Australia is to continue to thrive, it is the Australian community  both First Nations and others  that must take leadership, according to a new book, Sorry and Beyond: Healing the Stolen Generations.

The book by Brian Butler and John Bond describes the growth of a movement  first in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and then expanding to the wider Australian community  of people determined to expose the truth about the forced removal policies and to work for healing and justice.

It is also the message of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a foreword to the book. 

‘Politicians are notoriously slow and reactive,’ Mr Rudd writes. ‘The work of Sorry Day committees, when the political obstacles seemed formidable, was critical. The community groundwork may have affected only 10 per cent of the population. But that foundation was necessary for it to catch fire for the country at large.’

The authors of the book were at the heart of this people’s movement. Brian Butler, a former ATSIC Commissioner, chaired the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care for 15 years. John Bond was Secretary of the National Sorry Day Committee.

They tell the inside story of the struggle to focus national attention on the revelations of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report. They describe the role of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, former ATSIC head Lowitja O’Donoghue, and many others whose combined efforts enlisted widespread community support that led eventually to a national apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the forced removal policies.

The book challenges the Australian people and governments to fulfil the pledge made in 2008 by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, and signed by more than 100,000 Australians to close the gap in health, education and employment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community. The authors further argue that success in this task requires work towards a treaty. 

‘This is vital for national wellbeing and national security,’ Butler and Bond say.

AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie notes that this book adds to the growing body of knowledge about the harm inflicted on the Stolen Generations, their families and communities, as well as suggesting a path forward. 

'The personal, lived experiences described in the book are of two kinds  those that immerse us in the realities and lasting effects of the policies and government-led actions that separated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, and those that show us the determination of visionaries who initiated a journey towards healing,' Mr Ritchie says. 

'Knowledge and recognition of what occurred with the Stolen Generations are the basis for moving onwards, for making real progress in repairing the relationship between First Nations Australians and others.'

Sorry and Beyond is published by Aboriginal Studies Press, and was launched today – National Sorry Day – on the historic site of the former St Francis House in Adelaide. 

For more information, review copies, or to arrange an interview with Brian Butler and/or John Bond please call Diana Plater on 0419 692 502 or email

For information about Aboriginal Studies Press please email or contact (02) 6246 1638 or 0476 843 522 (please use SMS if no answer)

Title: Sorry and Beyond: Healing the Stolen Generations
Genre: Non-fiction 
Pages: 225
Publisher: Aboriginal Studies Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-925302-74-5 $39.95
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-925302-69-1 


Last updated: 02 July 2021