Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The formal apology finally arrives

Under the White Australia and assimilation policies, Indigenous people who were ‘not of full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Aboriginal people left. At the time Aboriginal people were seen as an inferior race.

Between 1910 and 1970 up to 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken forcibly or under duress from their families by police or welfare officers .

Most were under 5 years old. There was rarely any judicial process. To be Aboriginal was enough. They are known as the Stolen Generations.

They were taken because it was Federal and State Government policy that Aboriginal children - especially those of mixed Aboriginal and European descent - should be removed from their parents.
Between 10 and 30% of all Aboriginal children were removed, and in some places these policies continued into the 1970s.
The main motive was to ‘assimilate’ Aboriginal children into European society over one or two generations by denying and destroying their Aboriginality.
Speaking their languages and practising their ceremonies was forbidden
They were taken miles from their country, some overseas
Parents were not told where their children were and could not trace them
Children were told that they were orphans
Family visits were discouraged or forbidden; letters were destroyed. Most were raised in Church or state institutions. Some were fostered or adopted by white parents.
Many suffered physical and sexual abuse. Food and living conditions were poor.
They received little education, and were expected to go into low grade domestic and farming work.

The following is the historic formal apology given to the Aboriginal people of Australia by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of its parliament and government.
"Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

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