National Sorry Day marks the anniversary of the tabling in Federal Parliament of the Bringing Them Home Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, on 26 May 1997.
The landmark Bringing Them Home Report was the result of a national inquiry which investigated the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.
This marked a pivotal moment in the healing journey of many Stolen Generations survivors. It was the first time their stories - stories of being taken from their families - were acknowledged in such a way.
As described in the Bringing Them Home Report, it is estimated that one in 10, and possibly as many as one in three, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families and communities between 1910 and the 1970s.
The Report extensively documented the experiences of Stolen Generations survivors. Stolen children lost connection to family, land, culture and language.
The Report highlighted that many issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including substance abuse, mental illness and family violence, were strongly associated with the forced removal of children and the failure to provide healing.
The NSW Government has taken steps to support a collective journey of healing for Aboriginal communities in NSW, including:
- ex gratia payments to Stolen Generations survivors removed by or committed to the Aborigines Welfare Board up until its abolition in 1969
- a Stolen Generations Healing Fund to address intergenerational trauma
- financial support to existing Stolen Generations organisations.
NSW Health has an important role supporting the implementation of the Government response. NSW Health is a member of the NSW Government Stolen Generations Advisory Committee. The Premier and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs appointed the Stolen Generations Advisory Committee to advise on any matters related to the Stolen Generations. Ms Geri Wilson-Matenga, Executive Director, Centre for Aboriginal Health, represents NSW Health on the Committee. NSW Health works with its colleagues across Government, in partnership with Stolen Generations survivors, as part of collective efforts to enable healing and ensure the best support is in place to address the enduring effects of past practices.
The anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report provides an opportunity to ensure the needs of Stolen Generations members and their families remain a priority for the NSW Health policy agenda and a reminder that response to trauma is central to NSW Health’s work towards Closing the Gap.
National Sorry Day is a significant day for all Australians, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities across the nation.