The personal stories behind the Apology

The Apology to the Stolen Generations by the Australian Government in 2008 was an important step towards building a respectful new relationship between First Australians and other Australians.

 It was an important starting point in healing the wounds of the past and an historic step forward for our nation—something all Australians can be proud of.

The Apology was not an expression of personal responsibility or guilt by individuals but it did reflect our Australian values of compassion, justice and a ‘fair go’.  It also allowed the victims of bad policy to feel that their pain and suffering has been acknowledged.

It’s crucial that all Australians understand the background to the Apology in order to realise the great potential of this historic moment to move our nation forward.

To mark the seventh anniversary of the Apology on Friday 13 February 2015, here are some of the stories of Stolen Generations members, to whom the Apology paid respect.

Avis Gale

At just one week old, Avis Gale was removed from her mother by the Aboriginal Protection Board and sent to the Colebrook Home run by the United Aborigines’ Mission in Adelaide, 500 miles away from her home near Ceduna. The enforced religion and sexual abuse she suffered at the mission had a deep impact on Avis’ life. Read more of Avis’ story.

Bill Simon

Bill Simon was forced to leave his family to be “re-educated” to the European way of life. His removal created great hurt and began a big rejection problem that would affect his life for many years. He describes life as a Ward of the State as not too different from being in the Army. Read more of Bill’s story.

Tjalaminu Mia

Tjalaminu Mia, along with her six brothers and sisters, was taken from her family and placed in Sister Kate’s Children’s Home. Separated from her siblings at the home, the shock of going from the richness of family life to an isolated environment was almost more than she could bear. This made it very difficult for her to relate to people later in life. Read more of Tjalaminu’s story.

More stories from members of the Stolen Generations can be found on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website.

For more information and resources about the Apology, visit the websites of the National Sorry Day Committee and the Healing Foundation; watch Dr Tom Calma’s response to the Apology.

Photo by Wayne Quilliam.
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.

Skip to content
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap