Today Marks The 25th Anniversary of National Sorry Day – But Have We Actually Made Progress?

On the 25th anniversary of National Sorry Day the image is of an Indigenous Flag with a shadow of a face shining onto the flag

Today marks the 25th anniversary of National Sorry Day, a day that acknowledges the pain and strength of Stolen Generations who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.

The first National Sorry Day occurred the year after the Bringing Them Home Report was released in 1997, a landmark inquiry into the experiences of the Stolen Generations.

The Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney told PEDESTRIAN that acts of such significant trauma are often caused by actions of governments, and as such national apologies from governments are incredibly important. 

“We know that there is enormous trauma out in the community, and it’s not just with older people, it’s with young people as well. It’s intergenerational,” she said. 

Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts is a proud Bundjalung Widubul-Wiabul woman and advocate for human rights who believes apologies are a crucial first step, but beyond apologies, she calls for action. 

“An apology without any action does not mean anything, and it means nothing for my people when we are seeing my people forcibly removed at the rate that we are at the moment,” she said. 

“I’m also a survivor of the family policing system here in Australia and one thing I often share with people is the same year that the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave his national apology, that was the same year that I was forcibly removed from my family.

“So to me, when I think of that apology, I think it doesn’t mean anything when it’s still happening.”

It’s now been over two decades since the Bringing Them Home Report, and 15 years since Kevin Rudd’s national apology, and according to The Healing Foundation there is yet to be a “systematic government response” to rights of Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants.

“We as Labor are certainly very conscious of what the report says, which is why we’re pursuing recognition of First Peoples in the Australian Constitution through this referendum later this year,” the Minister told PEDESTRIAN.

Currently Indigenous children are over-represented in out of home care and the Minister noted that the “number of children being removed is obscene.” 

Child protection primarily sits with state and territory governments, not with the federal government, but the Minister stated that Labor is working closely with these governments and SNAICC, the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, to prevent this from continuing.

Turnbull-Roberts believes the best way to see this change is to change the current system, and move away from the idea that “punishment is the solution to poverty.”

“We need to actually seriously address families and communities with respect and strength based approaches,” she said.

“I’m a very big advocate to stop funding the Department of Communities and Justice and to make sure we reinvest those funds on the ground to community… changing the practice and the funds changes the issue.”

The Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation will be hosting a Sorry Day Stolen Generations Community Gathering on May 27th on Tarpeian Lawn, Gadigal Country. Find more information here.