National Apology Day in Australia is observed on February 13 every year. It is a national day commemorating the first-ever apology made in 2008 by a sitting Prime Minister acknowledging the tens of thousands of Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families during Australia’s assimilation era and the significant traumatic impact that this had across First Nations communities. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology in 2008 initialized the federal government’s agenda for rehabilitation, justice, and reconciliation for the Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
National Apology Day remembers this official apology to the children and families traumatized by past forced child removal and assimilation government policies in 20th century Australia. Although somewhat related, this annual commemoration is quite different from the National Sorry Day, or the National Day of Healing, which is a national event that has been held every year in Australia on May 26 since 1998.
The affected children, known as the ‘Stolen Generations’ — estimated to be 10% to 33% of all Indigenous children between 1910 and the 1970s — suffered significant abuse and trauma, as they had to live under harsh conditions and abusive treatment, and were compelled to reject their Indigenous heritage.
Can we please be mindful this week when are yarning with our First Nations cohort because our First Nations community will specifically be reflecting on this event.
Here are some points around today and why its important:
- It acknowledges discrimination - For so long, many surviving victims of the discriminatory child removal policies and other affected families sought acknowledgment, apology, and reparations from the government but were snubbed. Prime Minister Rudd’s motion for an apology was a significant turning point indicating that the Stolen Generations were unfairly treated and deserved a national apology.
- It highlights the plight of the traumatized - The Bringing Them Home report highlighted the plight of the Indigenous families who were unjustly affected by abusive laws and government policies. The National Apology Day was the first step at making up for the hurt, abuse, and trauma the Stolen Generations and other affected parties experienced in 20th century Australia.
- It seeks reconciliation - While it took almost ten years before the Australian government officially issued a national apology as recommended by the report, the apology signified the government’s readiness to make restitution and seek reconciliation. Although the harm cannot be totally undone, the government continues to make impactful efforts for rehabilitation and healing, especially with the Closing the Gap strategy, which aims “to achieve equality in health.”
All around the world today, there are still many laws and policies that do not support those coming from and living in diverse cultures and the most vulnerable of people in our community.
National Apology Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness and think about the how we can support and help people in 2023 – especially those from First Nations, Refugee, CALD and other diversity groups who are on our employment caseloads, accessing apprenticeships, may be budding entrepreneurs as well as our employers.