There was expectation as he rose to speak.
‘‘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.’’
These were the words the then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered to a hushed crowd early on the morning of February 13, 2007.
The National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
As he went on, silent tears trickled down cheeks, arms reached out offering comfort as a deep stillness settled over those who had gathered in the parliamentary gallery, outside on the lawns and in groups all around the country.
It was the word everyone had hoped to hear. And it was said not once, but twice.
The apology continued:
‘‘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.’’
When Rudd sat down, having tackled ‘‘this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul and, in a true spirit of reconciliation, to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia’’, there was an eruption of whistles, cheers and foot stamping.
For those gathered in Parliament House in Canberra or on the lawns out the front, those in parks, public spaces, schools, clubs and workplaces across the nation, there was a sense of release.
This was a defining moment on our country’s history.
It was another step on our journey of reconciliation.
However, 10 years on, what progress have we made?
Members of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities are still calling for meaningful redress — there have been no reparations in Victoria and many of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report have yet to be fully implemented.
There is still much truth telling, justice and healing yet to be done.
‘‘A future where all Australians... are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country’’ are fine words, but the challenge for our nation is to turn the words into action.
We have a responsibility to our future generations to understand our shared history and make things right by working towards treaty.
We invite you to join us for the annual Apology Breakfast to be in the Queens Gardens on Tuesday, February 13, at 7.50am as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations and reflect on what this means for us locally and as a nation.
You can support reconciliation by becoming a member of your local reconciliation group (email@example.com), becoming a member of Rumbalara Football Netball Club, or visiting Reconciliation Victoria’s website http://www.reconciliationvic.org.au
To read the transcript of the National Apology or view the video, visit https://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples
To read the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report, visit https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/bringing-them-home-report-1997