Every year on 26 May, National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations’.
National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generations Survivors and reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for our people and nation. While this date carries great significance for the Stolen Generations and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is also commemorated by Australians right around the country.
The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, one year after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament. The Bringing Them Home report is a result of a Government Inquiry into the past policies which caused children to be removed from their families and communities in the 20th century.
Following this, in 2000, there was one issue that was high on the agenda at the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk for reconciliation – an apology to the Stolen Generations.
It was also high in the sky, when a group of people – independent to the organisation of the walk – had the word ‘sorry’ written in the clear blue skies above the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Such was the intensity of feeling and support for Stolen Generations members – many of whom were among the huge crowd that day.
Today, twenty-three years after the Bringing Them Home report and twelve years since the National Apology, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still 10.6 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be removed from their families.
We cannot begin to fix the problems of the present without accepting the truth of our history. Sorry Day asks us to acknowledge the Stolen Generations, and in doing so, reminds us that historical injustice is still an ongoing source of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Islander families, communities, and peoples.
The journey continues
Since the establishment of Sorry Day, we now recognise another important milestone in Australia’s history on this date.
On 26 May, 2017, at the conclusion of the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru, council member Megan Davis delivered the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a consensus document on constitutional recognition, developed by a 16-member Referendum Council of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders.
Over a six-month period the council travelled to 12 different locations around Australia and met with over 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
The meetings resulted in a consensus document on constitutional recognition, the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address the ongoing trauma caused by actions like the forced removal of children from their families.
Hear the Ngangkarri Women’s Group message of strength, resilience and healing sang for Stolen Generations, families and communities in 2020 at the Healing Foundation website.
Learn more about Sorry Day.