THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE APOLOGY - Senate Adjournment Speech, 13 February 2018
I rise to share my sentiment and support for Australia's first nations peoples on this day, the 10th anniversary of the apology to the stolen generations. Ten years ago, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd turned a new page for Australia. On behalf of the Labor Party, the parliament and the nation of Australia, he said:
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
His acknowledgement of remorse, regret and shame changed us. For the first time, the elected leader of the Australian people put it on record that the nation was stopping to ask: 'How would I feel if this were done to me? How would I feel if my children were taken from me and if I had no idea where they were taken, if I would ever see them again, if they got my letters, or if they would remember my face or where they came from?'
I want to pay tribute to the survivors of the stolen generations for their generosity and forgiveness, and I am proud of Bill Shorten's announcement yesterday that a federal Labor government would create a stolen generations compensation fund, provide $10 million in funding for the Healing Foundation, and establish and convene a national summit on first nations children. I also recognise the call today by the Law Council of Australia for justice targets to end the high imprisonment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is the beginning of what Senator Pat Dodson has called for: a clear agreement of recognition—of recognition of the wrongs and the actions needed to right them.
The new page that the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd turned a decade ago was not an entirely new beginning for reconciliation, but it did mean the start of a new chapter. And today, 10 years on, we share the depth of that sorrow, we pay our respects and we remember.