Tenth Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation 13 February 2018

At 9.00 am on 13 February 2008, were you listening to the radio, watching television, or amongst the thousands of people gathered on the lawns outside Parliament House in Canberra for the opening of Parliament?

Do you remember the Welcome to Country ceremony; the content of the National Apology which the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered to Members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants and the reason for the apology, ‘the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth’ that 50,000 Indigenous children were taken from their parents between 1910 and 1970 because of laws made by the parliaments of the nation? [1]

The following are some excerpts from the National Apology:

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.

Prime Minister Rudd spoke of a future where ‘the injustices of the past must never, never happen again’, where the gap between ‘the life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ would be closed and where ‘all Australians, whatever their origins, [would be] truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of Australia’.

To close the gap the Prime Minister gave concrete targets ‘within a decade to halve the widening gap in literacy, numeracy and employment outcomes and opportunities for Indigenous Australians, to halve the appalling infant mortality rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and, within a generation, to close the equally appalling 17-year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in overall life expectancy’.

On the tenth anniversary of the Apology, we ask has the gap closed?
The Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report for 2017 states that while there are successes at local levels and there are different outcomes in the various states, the national gap has not closed in on child mortality, life expectancy, early childhood education, school attendance and employment. The target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 is on track. [2]

As successive governments ponder the learnings of the past ten years and endeavour to establish practical solutions to close the gap, there is a responsibility on all to be part of the process in the local community. A starting point could be a deep re-reading of the National Apology. Another idea, in this National Year of Youth, is to invite the Australian Catholic Youth Council, to encourage the youth of Australia to become familiar with the Apology and engage in closing the gap and ‘shaping the next chapter in the history of Australia’. [3]   

Clare Ahern rsj


[1] Read the transcript of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech

[2] Read a transcript of this report

[3] Find out more about the Year of Youth

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/25792994@N04/5667529239 April, 2011