National Sorry Day

by Katrina
Publish date
27 May 2012
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Your Question: What does National Sorry Day commemorate?

From the late 1800s up to the early 1970s, the Australian government implemented the systematic removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families through a range of assimilation and 'protection policies'. In Victoria, for example, the Aborigines Protection Act 1869 had the broad powers to make laws for 'the care, custody and education of the children of Aborigines'. However these policies were solely based on the premise of race, with the aim to absorb or assimilate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children of mixed descent into the non-Aboriginal community. Not only did these policies have lasting affects on families and community, but they were also active in suppressing Aboriginal languages and culture. Today, the people affected by the government removal policies are remembered as the Stolen Generations.

Australian Human Rights Commissions Bringing them Home Report 1997 Australian Human Rights Commission's Bringing them Home report, 1997.
Image: Cover Photo: Heide Smith, ‘Story Time’
Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

In 1997 the Howard Government released the Bringing them Home report as a recognition and tribute to the many families affected by forced removal. The main finding of the report was that 'between one in three and one in ten Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 to 1970'. The report recommended that the first step in healing is the acknowledgement of truth and the delivery of an official apology, which was provided by Kevin Rudd in 2008.

Another recommendation was that a National Sorry Day should be declared. National Sorry Day was first held on 26 May, 1998; exactly one year after the Bringing them Home report had been published. It encourages Australian society to acknowledge the impact of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is still felt by families and communities today. This annual event is marked with marches, speeches and presentations being held throughout the country, all of which aim to highlight the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and a commitment to reconciliation.

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National Sorry Day Committee

Reconciliation Australia

Share Our Pride

Australian Human Rights Commission

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