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Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples by the Parliament of Australia

Category: Event
Date: 13 February 2008
Sub Category:Statement of Commitment/Intention
State/Country:Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Subject Matter:Reconciliation
Summary Information:
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved an Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples ('the Apology') in the first session of the 42nd Parliament. The motion had bipartisan support.
Detailed Information:
Text of the Apology and Speeches

The motion was as follows (Hansard, at 167):

"That 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."

In his speech on the Apology, the Prime Minister stated (at 170):

"To the stolen generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry. I offer you this apology without qualification. We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied. We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments."

For the full text of the speeches by Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson, see the link to Hansard, below.

Representatives of the Stolen Generations handed a glass coolamon to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, who then passed it to the Speaker of the House of Representatives (see, eg, Jenkins 2008).

Broadcast and Response

More than 100 members of the Stolen Generations, as well as commissioners from the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families and others, were invited to attend Parliament for the Apology (Prime Minister of Australia 2008). Thousands of people gathered for the Apology on the lawn outside Parliament house and elsewhere around the country (see, eg, Koori Mail 2008).

In his response to the Apology delivered in the Member's Hall of Parliament House, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, stated that: "Through one direct act, Parliament has acknowledged the existence and the impacts of the past policies and practices of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families. And by doing so, has paid respect to the Stolen Generations. For their suffering and their loss. For their resilience. And ultimately, for their dignity.... By acknowledging and paying respect, Parliament has now laid the foundations for healing to take place and a reconciled Australia in which everyone belongs.... Today's actions enable very single one of us to move forward together - with joint aspirations and a national story that contains a shared past and future." Mr Calma also called for implementation of further recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report.

Bringing Them Home

Acknowledgement and Apology regarding the Stolen Generations formed one of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, which was released in 1997. The report also recommended the establishment of material, in-kind and non-material reparation.

Related Entries

  • Commonwealth of Australia
  • Event
  • Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (1997)
  • 'Close the Gap' Indigenous Health Equality Summit Statement of Intent

  • References

    Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1997) Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families


    Statement of Commitment/Intention (Australia)

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