Sorry Day Bridge Walk Canberra

By walking together across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge tomorrow for National Sorry Day, Canberrans can take an important step in healing and reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO Julie Tongs said today.

“Sorry is part of the healing and is important for non-Indigenous people to show their support so we can move forward together,” Ms Tongs said.

“Sorry means everything. Working in the frontline in health, we can still see the effects of intergenerational trauma on our people today through health problems, through parenting issues to matters of identity. The past has not been kind to our people, so this walk is a way of showing we are making things better by acknowledging the injustices of the past, working together.”

Winnunga together with the National Sorry Day Committee, Reconciliation Australia and ACT Health have organised the walk, which starts at 10.30am at Regatta Point and is open to the public. Around 300 school students are expected to take part in the event, which will feature a Welcome to Country by Ngunnawal Elder Agnes O’Shea and an address by Reconciliation Australia Co-Chair Dr Tom Calma, before moving across the bridge through a traditional smoking ceremony.

National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) Projects Manager Casey Davison O’Brien said the Bridge Walk represents the journey of healing and justice that Stolen Generations members and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are involved in.

“The National Sorry Day Committee strongly supports the Bridge Walk model. It helps unite communities across Australia in their support for public recognition of the trauma and loss faced by the Stolen Generations,” Mr Davison O’Brien said.

“The success of the Corroboree 2000 Bridge Walk in Sydney – when 300,000 people walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation – has left a wonderful legacy. The Bridge Walk is more than just a political statement – it is a physical embodiment of people’s commitment to justice and healing.”

The Sorry Day bridge walk takes place ahead of the start of National Reconciliation Week (May 27-June 3) when more than 300 events will take place across Australia in support of reconciliation, Dr Calma said.

“Sorry Day is an important part of the reconciliation journey, and I am pleased to be able to show my support by taking part in the Canberra bridge walk,” Dr Calma said.

“I would like to see Canberrans embrace this Sorry Day event in the lead up to getting involved in the many National Reconciliation Week events that will be taking place in almost all the major cultural institutions across Canberra from this Sunday.”

The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 – one year after the tabling of the report Bringing them Home, May 1997. The report was the result of an inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

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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