Formal Apology

Formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

In 1999 we the Sisters of St Joseph made a public apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples expressing our deepest sorrow that we had failed to recognise and address many of the injustices caused by the dispossession of land and culture.

We committed ourselves to stand in solidarity and work in partnership for a more just and equitable Australia.


Letter of Apology
8th August 1999

Dear Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

We, the Sisters of St. Joseph, founded to respond to the spiritual and material needs of
Australia’s disadvantaged people, express our deepest sorrow that we fail to recognise and
address many of the injustices caused by your dispossession of land and culture. Our neglect has been on going and has covered many facets of your lives.

We are particularly sorry for the times that we:

  • questioned your traditional values associated with land, language and culture
  • devalued the place of kinship of your daily living
  • interacted with your people from a standpoint of power
  • were patronising in our dealings with you taught Australian history only from the European viewpoint
  • stood by as your children were taken from families.

Mindful of our past failure, we now commit ourselves to:

  • recognise, value and respect you as a people of a unique cultural heritage and spirituality enriched by thousands of years of belonging to, and knowing this land, as mother
  • stand in solidarity with you in your struggle for justice particularly in relation to land
  • work with you in relationships that aim to bring about attitudinal and structural changes and a new understanding, respect and recognition of your spirituality and culture.

In solidarity with you, we sign this letter

Sr. Giovanni Farquer – Congregational Leader, Sisters of St. Joseph, North Sydney 2059
Mrs. Brenda McDonnell – Coordinator, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Erskinville