National Sorry Day: An important part of healing

National Sorry Day is held on 26 May each year to acknowledge and recognise members of the Stolen Generations. Charles Passi, a Dauareb tribesman from the Mer Island group in the Torres Straits, and Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation shares his thoughts on the importance of National Sorry Day.

National Sorry Day is important to us as an organisation, but also to us as Australia’s First Peoples because we use it to remember and recognise our Stolen Generations. 

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people I know have been affected either directly or indirectly by this terrible part of our history since European colonisation. 

With no disrespect intended, I am a strong advocate for turning our hurt from the past into something positive for our community and for our future generations, as a sign of taking our destiny into our own hands. 

That’s why I was very happy to hear the recommendation from the Bringing Them Home report (tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997) that a National Sorry Day be celebrated each year.

And that’s what we’ve been doing since 1998.

I see this as a positive contribution to our healing journey, just as the national Apology was five years ago.

At the Healing Foundation, we are dedicated to supporting the healing of Stolen Generations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia. 

We see healing as a process of returning to our physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing. 

It’s a journey that can happen over a long time and that’s understandable given the profound and damaging effects that forced removal has had on peoples’ lives.  

As our brothers and sisters over at Reconciliation Australia know, recognition is a big part of healing.

So that’s why National Sorry Day isn’t just another one of ‘those days’ for me. 

To celebrate it this year I’m going to take part in the Sorry Day Bridge Walk in Canberra, led by the deadly mob at Winnunga Health Service, on 24 May. 

I hope all Australians, whether they’ve been here for generations or just a short time, will take a quiet or (loud) moment to recognise our Stolen Generations on 26 May.

Au Esoau! (a big thankyou)

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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