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Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples by the Parliament of Australia

Category: Event
Date: 13 February 2008
Sub Category:Statement of Commitment/Intention
Place:Parliament House, Canberra
State/Country:Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Alternative Names:
  • The Apology to the Stolen Generations
  • The Apology
  • Subject Matter:Reconciliation
    Summary Information:

    Former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, moved an Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples (the Apology) in the first session of the 42nd Parliament on 13 February 2008. The motion received bipartisan support and was an important acknowledgement of the pain and suffering experienced by Indigenous Australians as a result of government policy.

    The government apologised for past laws and policies which authorised the removal and assimilation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into the non-Indigenous community.

    By acknowledging the wrongs of the past, the Apology sought to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

    Detailed Information:

    Text of the Apology and Speeches

    The motion was as follows (Hansard, at 167):

    "I move that 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."

    For the full text of the speech by Kevin Rudd, see the link above.

    Broadcast and Response

    More than 100 members of the Stolen Generations, as well as commissioners from the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families and others, were invited to attend Parliament for the Apology (Prime Minister of Australia 2008). Thousands gathered for the Apology on the lawn outside Parliament House and elsewhere around the country (see, eg, Koori Mail 2008).

    In his response to the Apology delivered in the Member's Hall of Parliament House, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, stated that:

    "Through one direct act, Parliament has acknowledged the existence and the impacts of the past policies and practices of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families. And by doing so, has paid respect to the Stolen Generations. For their suffering and their loss. For their resilience. And ultimately, for their dignity....

    By acknowledging and paying respect, Parliament has now laid the foundations for healing to take place and a reconciled Australia in which everyone belongs....

    Today's actions enable very single one of us to move forward together - with joint aspirations and a national story that contains a shared past and future."

    Mr Calma also called for implementation of further recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report.

    The 1997 Bringing Them Home Report

    The Bringing Them Home report found that the forcible removal of Indigenous children had 'life-long and profoundly destructive consequences' (Reconciliation Australia, 2018). The report also recommended that the government acknowledge, apologise for the Stolen Generations and establish material, in-kind and non-material reparations.

    The Apology gave effect to some of these recommendations. In 2009, the government established the Healing Foundation which continues to provide support to members of the Stolen Generations.

    Related Entries

  • Commonwealth of Australia
  • Event
  • Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1997)
  • 'Close the Gap' Indigenous Health Equality Summit Statement of Intent
  • The Stolen Generations
  • Legislation
  • Constitution of Queensland 2001 (Qld)

  • References

    General Reference
    Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) (2008) Sorry: the national apology
    National Sorry Day Committee Inc (2008) Homepage
    Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (13 February 2008) Let the healing begin: Response to government to the national apology to the Stolen Generations
    Reconciliation Australia (2008) Sorry
    ABC News (13 February 2008) 'Father of reconciliation' welcomes national apology
    Reconciliation Australia (5 February 2018) Let's talk... The Apology
    Rachel Mealey (13 February 2020) Twelve years since Kevin Rudd's apology, has anything changed?
    Media Release
    Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Indigenous Affairs (10 February 2008) Stolen Generations invited to Parliament for the National Apology
    News Item
    Koori Mail (27 February 2008) National Apology Commemorative Liftout
    Dylan Welch, The Sydney Morning Herald (13 February 2008) Kevin Rudd says sorry
    Land Rights News (April 2008) "For the pain, suffering and hurt ... we say sorry" - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, national apology to the Stolen Generations, 13 February 2008
    Calla Wahlquist (12 February 2018) Rudd’s apology, 10 years on: the elusive hope of a ‘breakthrough moment’
    Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1997) Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families


    Statement of Commitment/Intention (Australia)

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