Please note: The following article contains discussions about the Stolen Generations, which may be distressing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers. Your mental health is important, so please take care when reading.
National Sorry Day (26 May) commemorates the Stolen Generations and serves as a reminder of the historical mistreatment endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
To move towards meaningful reconciliation, it is important to understand the origin and meaning of National Sorry Day, and the crucial role of truth-telling in the healing process for Indigenous communities. We can all take steps towards a more just and inclusive society by addressing the intergenerational trauma caused by forced removals, acknowledging historical injustices, and striving for reconciliation.
Between 1910 and the 1970s, thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly separated from their families and communities - a dark chapter in Australian history known as the Stolen Generations. The effects of this trauma have reverberated through generations, causing immense pain and loss. National Sorry Day was established in 1998, one year after the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report, which documented the forced removals and made recommendations for addressing past wrongs. The report, co-authored by Murdoch University's second Chancellor Sir Ronald Wilson, recommended that the Australian Government provide an unreserved apology and use a portion of the national budget towards reparations.
The Importance of National Sorry Day
National Sorry Day serves as an annual occasion to reflect on the experiences of the Stolen Generations and recognise the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. It provides an opportunity to acknowledge the grief, trauma, and loss suffered by individuals, families, and communities. Moreover, it encourages all Australians to take part in the healing process and contribute to reconciliation.
Healing through truth-telling
Truth-telling lies at the heart of reconciliation and healing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long called for a comprehensive truth-telling process to bring to light the colonial conflict, dispossession, and ongoing impacts of colonisation.
Recognising and accepting the wrongs of the past is crucial for historical acceptance, which is a critical dimension of reconciliation. National Sorry Day facilitates the truth-telling process at various levels, including official apologies, truth and reconciliation inquiries, memorials, and community-led initiatives.
Interconnectedness of wellbeing and truth-telling
Healing and wellbeing for Indigenous communities encompass physical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural aspects. The process of healing from the intergenerational trauma caused by forced removals requires addressing the underlying historical injustices and promoting truth-telling. By confronting the truth of the past, society can take significant steps toward preventing the repetition of past wrongs, fostering understanding, and building a more equitable future.
The role of Reconciliation and the Uluru Statement from the Heart
Reconciliation, with truth-telling as a crucial component, is vital for Indigenous healing. The Uluru Statement from the Heart, delivered in 2017, called for a Makarrata Commission, representing a coming together after struggles. This commission aims to establish a fair and truthful relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian society based on justice and self-determination. Recognising and addressing the truth of the past is essential for achieving reconciliation and creating a more inclusive nation.
National Sorry Day stands as a solemn reminder of the mistreatment suffered by the Stolen Generations and the ongoing need for healing and reconciliation. By embracing truth-telling, acknowledging historical injustices, and supporting the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Australia can work towards creating a society where all individuals can thrive. Healing is a collective journey that requires the commitment of every Australian to foster understanding, respect, and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.