National Sorry Day
National Reconciliation Week
National Sorry Day is held annually on May 26.
This day gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians the chance to come together and commemorate the history of forcible Aboriginal child removals and their continued effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities.
The first National Sorry Day was held on May 26, 1998, which was one year after the tabling of a government report about the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities. The report, known as Bringing Them Home, acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly separated from their families and communities since the early days of European occupation in Australia. Governments and missionaries were responsible for this forced separation.
Systematic removal practices were implemented through various assimilation and “protection” policies by the late 19th century. Many Aboriginal children were forcibly taken away from their families in the name of assimilation during the 1950s and 1960s. These children are known as the “Stolen Generations”. They were brought up in institutions like the Kinchela Boys Aboriginal Home, near Kempsey NSW, or fostered and adopted to non-Indigenous families. These removals were official government policy in Australia until 1969.
The Bringing Them Home report made 54 recommendations, one of which was that a national Sorry Day be held to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects. The first Sorry Day was held in 1998. Many Sorry Day commemorations that year were used as platforms to encourage the Australian Government to issue a National Apology to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. A National Apology came belatedly in 2008, tabled in the Australian Parliament by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
National Sorry Day continues to hold significance today.
To mark this year’s National Sorry Day, KBH survivors and KBHAC team members share their reflections on what Sorry Day means to them and its importance as a national commemoration.
National Reconciliation Week 2020: In This Together
National Reconciliation Week takes place annually, starting on May 27th and ending June 3rd. These dates are important milestones in the ‘reconciliation journey’. The 27th of May was the day of the successful 1967 referendum and the 3rd of June 1992 was the day of the High Court’s Mabo Decision, which overturned the fiction of ‘terra nullius’.
Reconciliation has been identified as a journey for all Australians and a ‘people’s movement’. At the heart of this journey and people’s movement are the relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In NSW, the peak body for reconciliation is Reconciliation NSW which has outlined what reconciliation is:
Reconciliation means recognising the dispossession, persecution and oppression experienced by NSW First Peoples because of Australia’s colonisation.
Reconciliation supports the calls over many decades by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to move past Australia’s colonial legacy by being recognised and heard in their own countries, and with the right and capacity to practice self-determination.
Reconciliation cannot only be symbolic; it requires a series of real, practical outcomes in relation to the ongoing racism and systemic disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Reconciliation involves acknowledging and accepting our true shared histories and valuing and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a proud part of a shared national identity.
Reconciliation means building relationships of trust and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, rights and experiences. In a reconciled Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures are supported to thrive and always treated with dignity and respect.
2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000 and this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is ‘In this together’. As a contribution to the theme of ‘In this together’, KBH uncles and KBHAC staff share their reflections on what reconciliation and National Reconciliation Week mean to them.