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National Sorry Day

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Indigenous Australian Joan Baker, daughter of Ruby Williams who was taken from her family at three years of age, looks on after watching the live televsion broadcast from Australian Parliament in Canberra where Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an apology to the Aboriginal people for injustices committed over two centuries of white settlement on February 13, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. Rudd's apology referred to the "past mistreatment" of all Aborigines, singling out the "Stolen Generations", the tens of thousands of Aboriginal children taken from their families by governments between 1910 and the early 1970s, in a bid to assimilate them into white society. (Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)

Today, we reflect as a nation on our past and consider what kind of future we want for all Australians

National Sorry Day

For our June issue, we met Aboriginal woman Aunty Lorraine Peeters. Peeters was just four years’ old when she and her seven siblings were removed from their parents by the Australian authorities under the policy of “assimilation.” Her younger sister was just two. Peeters would never see her mother or father again.

In Australia, today is National Sorry Day. It also marks 20 years to the day that the Human Right’s Commission tabled their “Bringing Them Home” report into the forced removal of Indigenous children as part of what we now refer to as the “Stolen Generation.”

Today marks an important moment to remember the past policies of forced child removal of Australia’s Indigenous population, and to reflect on what kind of future we want for all Australians.

Past

The term ‘Stolen Generation’ refers to the Indigenous Australian children who were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies. This took place from 1910 right up to the 1970s.

A National Inquiry into the Stolen Generation was established in 1995, and was conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (now referred to as the Human Rights Commission).

The result of the Inquiry was the “Bringing Them Home” Report, which was tabled 20 years ago in Parliament today. The report made 54 recommendations aimed at addressing the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To date, only nine of these recommendations have been implemented.

Present

As it stands, Australia’s Indigenous peoples face significant disadvantages across areas of health, education, employment and living standards. According to the Federal Government’s 2017 Close the Gap Report:

  • Indigenous Australians die about 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians
  • Indigenous school attendance rates are lower than their non-Indigenous counterparts
  • Indigenous children aged between 0-4 years have a higher mortality rate

What’s more, Indigenous children are about nine times more likely to be removed by authorities today, compared to their non-Indigenous peers. Current reports show that there is approximately 15, 000 Indigenous children in state care.

Future

For Aunty Lorraine, her life has becoming about healing others. As well as her own unique training programme, she works with The Healing Foundation, which is the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to address the ongoing trauma caused by the removal of children from their families.

Despite the passage of 20 years, it is clear that more work needs to be done for Australia to address the inequities experience by their Indigenous people. CEO of the Healing Foundation, Richard Weston, says that Indigenous people must be included as part of the solution. “If not, we will not close the gap.”

To read more about Aunty Lorraine’s incredible story, and how she and her family are helping Australia’s Indigenous peoples, pick up a copy of the Australian June issue now.

Listen to our radio interview with CEO of the Healing Foundation, Richard Weston here

Read our in depth interview with the Australian Human Rights Commission on the 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report here

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