24 May 2024

'We don't need any more reports; we need action': National Sorry Day bridge walk returns

| James Coleman
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The crowd set off from Regatta Point at 10:30 am. Photo: James Coleman.

Hundreds of people marched across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge this morning in the first ‘National Sorry Day’ walk since before COVID.

Commemorating the anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report in the Australian Parliament in 1997, National Sorry Day is marked by events across the country to commemorate survivors of the Stolen Generations.Organised by Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and proudly supported by The Healing Foundation this year, the annual walk has not been held since 2019.

Canberrans of all backgrounds attended, including more than 100 primary school students, proudly holding banners they had made as part of the bridge walk’s banner competition.

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“It’s amazing – I think we’ve got 95 students from one school alone, so a great turnout,” Ngunnawal girl Tahalianna Soward-Mahanga says.

Now in her last year at Erindale College, Tahalianna remembers joining the National Sorry Day walk for the first time as a 10-year-old in 2017.

“I didn’t quite get it at first, but then when I walked, it was so inspirational for me – walking with my elders and my family.”

She says it feels like a “full circle” to be back now.

“It’s great we’re getting our young ones coming through and getting them to understand the significance of the day is really important. I feel they’ll remember this day, like I did.”

It is estimated between 1 in 10 – and possibly as many as one in three – Indigenous children were removed from their families and communities between 1910 and the 1970s and put in institutions, fostered or adopted out to non-Indigenous families.

These have become known as the ‘Stolen Generations’.

In 1995, then Prime Minister Paul Keating set up a national inquiry to investigate these forced removals. Commissioners spoke to more than 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about their experiences.

The report, handed down two years later, consisted of 54 recommendations to redress the impacts of the removal policies and address ongoing trauma.

Recommendations included a national apology, reparation payments, improved services for Stolen Generations members and a process for monitoring the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

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The Healing Foundation CEO Shannan Dodson says that not enough has been done for nearly 30 years.

“I think what’s driving people to be here today is the understanding that the history of the Stolen Generations is a scar on this country,” she says.

“The walk is important as a way of commemorating these survivors in a very open and deliberate way because so many survivors feel like there’s still not enough education about the history and experiences they’ve had.

“This is a good opportunity to put it in front of people’s faces and have that opportunity to come together and talk about it.”

The foundation, set up to “amplify the voices and lived experience of Stolen Generations survivors and their families”, is calling for survivors in all states to be eligible for redress schemes (as are currently offered in Western Australia and Queensland), among other priorities.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health CEO Julia Tongs says the walk will continue until all 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report and those of the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody are implemented.

“Neither of them have been fully implemented,” she says.

“We don’t need any more reports. We don’t need any more evaluations. We don’t need any more reviews. We need action. And the thing that concerns me is that the little kids coming today – they’re going to still be walking over this bridge in years to come because of what’s not happening.”

Reconciliation Day is 27 May. For more information about events, visit Our CBR.

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I notice that some of the comments here — both progressive and conservative — around the “stolen generations” allegations, have been removed.

On 13 February 2008, both chambers of your democratically elected Australian parliament resolved to accept a motion put forward relating to the “Stolen Generations”, which has subsequently become known as “The Apology”.

That apology formally and unequivocally acknowledged, inter alia, “the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind” and for this, the parliament (in accepting the motion) said “we say sorry”.

Since that day, there have been five further democratically elected Australian parliaments – four of which were led by a conservative prime minister. Not one of those succeeding Australian parliaments has rescinded the motion.

So, despite your denial, the “stolen generations” are not “allegations” they are, and have been, formally acknowledged.

I’m sorry for the convicts that were transported here involuntarily

While we now know, the punishment was not commensurate with the crime, the convicts were transported because they broke the law of the day.

Given you imply a comparison with the ‘stolen Generation’, perhaps you can outline for us your obviously extensive and considered understanding of the law (of the day), which the kids who were forcibly removed from their families, broke.

JS, have you ever been to an indigenous settlement? I have – Numbulwar, Ngukurr, Bathurst Island, Elco Island, Melville Island, Port Keats (Wadeye). Conditions for children were not flash. Alcohol abuse and DV were prevalent. Perhaps you could retort with some actual feet on the ground stories, rather than latte conversations

Congratulations, Fp, you’ve got your tick in the box and were able to observe some of the third world conditions that present day indigenous people endure. I didn’t have to travel too far to get my experience. I grew up in a public housing estate and saw the best and worst of many different types of family – and it wasn’t only indigenous households. I was lucky enough to have parents who had a job (a couple actually) and even though it was a struggle, they were able to break the cycle for their children – which is why I can afford lattes these days, although I prefer hot chocolate.

Have you ever spoken to anyone who was forcibly removed from their family, simply because they were black, to get a real insight into the trauma they and their birth families suffered? Or do you just prefer to trivialise the subject with your inane comparison to convicts.

It can ask for whatever it likes. When it doesn’t have the substance to back it up it’s meaningless. Governments can’t apologise to people that have passed on. Nor could they find any systematic abuse, only a few individual cases of people going off on their own.

The current ask from the sign for paying the rent on the Vic library is over one hundred million billion dollars. This just proves they never want it to end and have unrealistic aims. How can you deal with something so irrational.

There is no evidence of any children being worse off from being removed from homes.

Whatever Labor says they have basically destroyed parents right of Aboriginal and non Aboriginal parents with the removal of ESPR.

How can living children be denied a parent and that’s ok, but abusive parents and child removal is bad.

“There is no evidence of any children being worse off from being removed from homes.”
Seriously? If you believe that, then any further engagement is wasted effort, as nothing can counter your rigidly jaundiced perspective.

We need a full audit into how our tax dollars are being used.

Capital Retro10:02 pm 24 May 24

My dear wife and I were married on the 26th May some years before “sorry day” was invented in 1998.

We celebrate only our wedding anniversary on the 26th May each year and we also try and reconcile (with each other).

I’m NOT “sorry.” I or my family, my forebears on both sides likewise did nothing to any indigenous person to be “sorry” for. Indeed the indigenous have a lot to be not sorry for; woman’s rights, western medicine, eduction and higher education if they chose, social welfare on and on. SORRY Day is just a way for the indigenous to entrench the leftist ideology of the oppressor and the oppressed and in today’s Australia that is mostly a false narrative.

Hard to believe that Australia had laws and policies to take these children away from safe loving homes, where their parents wanted them. Most of the stories and court cases say otherwise, it was only in cases of extreme harm and the threshold of removing an Aboriginal child was much higher than other families.

James, is it Australia has a problem with DV and these kids were rightfully removed, or It wasn’t ok to remove children from DV?

It would only be the woke mob that has a problem with DV today and also has an issue measures to curve DV back in 1910. You can’t have it both ways.

GrumpyGrandpa3:29 pm 24 May 24

Hindsight and the passage of time always shows failures.
My sister-in-law, until recently, was a foster mum. She cared for 2 sisters, on seperate occasions. There were 5 or 6 kids(I can’t remember); all to different fathers and the State removed the kids from the mother’s care because she was a drug addict.
Some of the kids live with their natural father, the others are with foster parents.
Needless to say, the mother is regularly in Court attempting to get custody. One of the girls has attempted suicide and has quit school; neither the State nor the foster parents can do a thing about it because she has rights.
In all, it’s a mess.
Should the State have intervened and removed the kids from their mother? Absolutely.

DV is abhorrent no matter the race, creed or heritage of the family involved.

While there were definitely issues for indigenous children in the home, their forcible removal and placement with white families, for many meant they suffered harsh, degrading treatment (including sexual abuse) and were frequently indoctrinated to believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were inferior.

You obviously haven’t read the Bringing Them Home report referred to in the article. You can read it here: https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/pdf/social_justice/bringing_them_home_report.pdf.

Then, once you have actually informed yourself on the “assimilation intent” of the various administrations, perhaps you might like to come back and comment again, from a perspective of actual knowledge rather than jaundiced prejudice.

Oh and because I strongly suspect you won’t actually read it, let me give you a snippet from page 36 of the report. It references a Commonwealth-State Native Welfare Conference, held in 1937, to determine what should be done about their ‘Aboriginal problem’. The report states:
“In relation to Indigenous children, the conference resolved that,
… efforts of all State authorities should be directed towards the education of children of mixed aboriginal blood at white standards, and their subsequent employment under the same conditions as whites with a view to their taking their place in the white community on an equal footing with the whites.”

Hopefully you are not suggesting the situation you have detailed is unique to indigenous families?

JS, is that it? I thought you were going to produce a slam-dunk quote absolutely nailing it with a government document talking about official policy for blanket no-exceptions child removal. But no. Apparently that’s only in the movies, where bleeding hearts make up facts they think we need. Bleat away, make stuff up, but I seem to recall Keith Windschuttle saying, every time this forced removal schtick has been brought to court, it hasn’t succeeded. Due to no evidence (grifters with “my truth” aside, and fabricating academics also aside). There was no such blanket official policy. This is in the same disinformation category as the “flora and fauna” schtick. Activists making s**t up, because the reality doesn’t fit the narratives they want to create. Moral lies aren’t the same as truth.

The Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997 and was the result of a national inquiry that investigated the forced removal of Indigenous
children from their families.
So are you saying there were no forced removals and you have evidence they were all welfare interventions? Perhaps you have evidence that the Commonwealth-State Native Welfare Conference didn’t take place and the resolution was not passed? Perhaps the people who appeared before the inquiry to tell the story of the impact of being removed and their treatment after the removal are liars and you have facts to prove it?
Have you actually read the report or are you just blithering because the factual “s**t” doesn’t suit your narrative?
Mistakes were made and many indigenous kids were removed from their families for the wrong reason – do you have any facts to dispute that?

I have read Bringing Them Home and I’ve also read the submissions. It is a biased & flawed report. It was politicised by Mick Dodson. It ignored submissions by police, patrol officers & others that didn’t fit its political “outcome”.

Thank you for your opinion.

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