2018 marks the 20th anniversary of National Sorry Day, which falls on the 26th of May each year as a recognition of the negative impact and past wrongs of Australian policies, practices and attitudes on Indigenous Australians.
Starting in 1998; one year after the Bringing Them Home Report (an inquiry into the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families) was presented to the Parliament, it is a day for all Australians to commemorate our commitment to true justice for Indigenous Australians.
But 20 years on, what does that looks like and have we learned from the findings of the report - and it's recommendations to bring not only an apology but reparations? Can we walk the talk of being sorry by 'doing sorry'? Included in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report were the following steps:
1. acknowledgment and apology,
2. guarantees against repetition,
3. measures of restitution,
4. measures of rehabilitation, and
5. monetary compensation.
The intergenerational trauma that families and individuals have - and continue to- experience as a result of past treatment and it's current societal impacts is a significant human rights issue. Often as individuals we feel powerless to make any kind of lasting change in the face of minimal governmental action for change. A good place to start is to educate ourselves and one another, get involved in events and lobby for change.
Across Australia there are a number of events occurring to commemorate Sorry Day. We encourage you to contact your local Aboriginal Land Council or Aboriginal organisation to find out. In Melbourne, the following events will be held:
1. A new public artwork; Remember Me by Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi artist Reko Rennie, paying tribute to the Stolen Generations will be officially launched by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Colin Hunter. This free event open to the whole community (see flyer) will include ceremony, guest speakers and performances by:
- Deborah Cheetham
- Kutcha Edwards
- Jack Charles
- Illana Atkinson
- Djirri Djirri Dance Group
- Jindi Worabak Dancers
- Koori Youth Will Shake Spears Dance Group.
2. At Federation Square, short films about the Stolen Generations supplied by Link-Up Victoria and Connecting Home will be screened from 7 am to midnight on the big screen. Pull up a chair, warm yourself by the heater, sit back and watch stories from the heart of the Stolen Generations. Tissues to be supplied.
3. Link-Up Victoria has consulted with representatives from some of the famous landmarks in our beautiful city and this year the following places will be illuminated at night in purple (the colour of healing) in honour of the Stolen Generations:
- Fountain in Parliament Gardens, Cnr Albert and Nicholson Street
- Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street
- Arts Spire, Arts Centre, Swanston Street
- Federation Square, Yarra Building
- VACCA head office at 340 Bell Street, Preston
Doing sorry looks like something and these events are a great start to show solidarity and support for First Nations Australians and build relationships that will bring about healing and reparation of the pain that our nation is experiencing.
To educate yourself we recommend the following resources:
The Bringing Them Home Report: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/bringing-them-home-report-1997
Reconciliation Victoria's Sorry Day 2018 page: www.reconciliationvic.org.au/portfolio/sorry-day-2018
Australians Together Discover page: https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/