Tag Archives: Stolen Generations

“‘Sorry’ means ‘respect’”

Personal stories help us to ‘get’ the big stuff. Here is Evonne Goolagong-Cawley’s, from The Australian:
TENNIS great Evonne Goolagong-Cawley used to hide under her bed when a stranger came to the door of her childhood home.

It was a knee-jerk reaction for an Aboriginal girl, living in southwestern NSW, repeatedly warned of the dangers of unknown visitors in the era of the stolen generations.

“Whenever I visited the Griffith mission in the early ’50s, my aunty and my mother used to say whenever a shiny car came down the road … ‘Come on you better run and hide, the welfare man will come and take you away’,” Ms Goolagong-Cawley said in Canberra today.

“I used to run and hide under the bed.”

The habit persisted at her home in Barellan, the small town she grew up in where her’s was the only Aboriginal family.

“Whenever some stranger would come to the door I would still run and hide under the bed.

“It shows that fear has passed through from generation to generation.

“They have a very vivid and very strong memory of that time and of having that fear.”

In her extended family, the two-time Wimbledon champion said she had cousins who had been taken from their parents.

Ms Goolagong-Cawley, a member of the Wiradjuri people, was among those witnessing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to indigenous Australians today.

“It’s going to take me a few days to sort of come down I think. I’m still a bit flustered,” she said.

“Absolutely amazing. I just can’t believe that after all this time it’s finally happened and I’m here to support all those mothers who went through so much pain at having their children taken away.”

Ms Goolagong-Cawley said she knew of many mothers who had sent messages to victims of the stolen generations.

“Now, healing can start. To say sorry means a sign of respect.

“Now I think that that’s the first step towards … reconciliation in this country.

“When you say sorry it creates a better working relationship. I think we have a better chance of working together now.”

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‘Sorry’ a chance for healing and justice

Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5.24)

Today, Kevin Rudd has apologised on behalf of the parliament to the Stolen Generations. This apology was ‘strongly supported’ by the Opposition. It’s a great moment for this country; it was moving to see the numbers of Indigenous people in the galleries of the chamber as well as gathered around the Parliament building.

The biblical commitment to justice is not fulfilled by a five-letter word. Those who say that ‘sorry’ is not enough are dead right. The nation now has the harder task of doing justice. So it’s good that there’s an explicit commitment to reparation, too—starting with pre-school opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. I’m sure the Government will be held to account on this one.

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Australian Parliament to say ‘Sorry’


Tomorrow, Australia’s parliament will say ‘Sorry’ to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous peoples. Below is the text of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s statement; I haven’t yet seen any responses yet.

The Bringing Them Home report of 1997 was jointly written by Sir Ronald Wilson, President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and one-time President of the Uniting Church (1988-1991), and by Mick Dodson, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. It advocated a number of responses including:

  • funding for Indigenous agencies to allow Indigenous people affected by the forcible removal policies to record their history
  • reparations to be made to people forcibly removed from their families
  • Australian Parliaments to offer official apologies—tomorrow’s business

The issue of compensation has been raised; this is surely part of the ‘reparations’ requested by Bringing Them Home. Seems fair to this onlooker.

Here is the text of Mr Rudd’s proposed apology, from the SMH:

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
I can’t wait till tomorrow! 

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Saying ‘sorry’ for Lent

This article appears in Journey.

I have felt shame for years that our governments have not seen fit to issue an apology to Australia’s Indigenous people. It hasn’t happened yet!—I hope we’re not disappointed when it comes. We need this to move ahead.

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:3) 

The Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) have today congratulated the Federal Government on its planned formal apology to members of the Stolen Generations. 

A formal apology was made to Australia’s Indigenous people by the Uniting Church more than a decade ago. 
The President of the Uniting Church, Reverend Gregor Henderson, said the Christian view of confession was a recognition of wrongdoing. 

“We take confession to mean that what has been done is not in accordance with the hopes and possibilities that God has for us,” Rev. Henderson said.

“Confession is both an acknowledgement of this and an expression of resolve to live, by the grace of God, differently in the future. 

“Our partnership and covenanting agreement with the UAICC is one way in which we have demonstrated our resolve to walk alongside our Aboriginal and Islander brothers and sisters; to seek forgiveness and reparations. 

“The Government’s apology to the Stolen Generations marks the beginning of a sense of renewal and we hope it will be backed up with practical measures for better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”
Reverend Shayne Blackman, National Administrator of the UAICC, said the Church and the UAICC have had a longstanding view about the need for the Australian Government to say sorry. 

“The proposed formal apology from the Government is greatly welcomed by UAICC members, Rev. Blackman said.

“However, we believe that true repentance involves both an apology and a change of attitude and we hope the Government takes further action to clearly demonstrate its commitment to the apology, such as tailored Indigenous programs and opportunities for socio-economic equality. 

“As a first step, the apology will be an historic moment for Australia, and we hope to see a framework put in place, following the lead of countries like Canada and New Zealand where rights-based approaches have been successfully implemented.”

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