National Sorry Day 2016

Sorry Day 2016A candle lit walk along the Cooks River in Marrickville was held to observe National Sorry Day1 on the evening of Thursday May 26. Organised by the Cooks River Valley Association (CRVA) and supported by Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign, the walk began at Richardson’s Lookout – Marrickville Peace Park and concluded in Steel Park. At the start of the event John Butcher from CRVA provided a brief history of local National Sorry Day events while Jennifer Newman, a local Wiradjuri woman, spoke at three Aboriginal interpretative sites that were visited during the walk.

Issues addressed by both Jennifer and a number of participants ranged from the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families and communities that began during the very first days of European occupation, to the dislocation and suffering caused by assimilation practices from the 1930’s, to the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report2 in the Federal parliament on May 26, 1997.

Indigenous children were not only separated from their families but they were also estranged from their communities and culture. Contact with family members was at best limited and at worst denied through censorship and destruction of correspondence. Despite the introduction of programs to assist family tracing and re-union, for example the funding of Link-Up NSW, the problems associated with re-uniting members of the stolen generations with family members and relatives remains a major issue today.

In commenting on this problem, Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, has said that indigenous children are “best served when they are supported to maintain their connection to family, community and culture. The experiences of the Stolen Generations demonstrate the devastation of severing these connections”. He therefore recommends “the appointment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioners in every state and territory and the development of a target in relation to child welfare for Closing the Gap.”3

Notes
1. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, ‘National Sorry Day’,  and Australian Government, ‘Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations’, (both websites last accessed June 4, 2016).
2. Australian Human Rights Commission, Bringing Them Home Report, August 2, 1995 (includes links to the full report and recommendations).
3. Mick Gooda, ‘Children’s rights must come first’, Australian Human Rights Commission, March 10, 2016, (accessed June 4, 2016).

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