National Sorry Day - a step forward for healing and reconciliation

National Sorry Day is an opportunity to acknowledge and show our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders and people. Since 1998, this annual event has been held on 26 May, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country's Indigenous population.

The date carries great significance for the Stolen Generations, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and non-Indigenous Australians. On 26 May 1997, the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament.

The annual National Sorry Day commemorations remind and raise awareness among politicians, policy makers, and the wider public about the significance of the forcible removal policies and their impact on the children that were taken, but also on their families and communities.

This event is seen by many as a step forward for healing and reconciliation.


The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, which was one year after the tabling of a report about the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. The report, known as Bringing Them Home, acknowledged that Indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and communities since the early days of European occupation in Australia. Governments and missionaries were responsible for this forced separation.

Systematic removal practices were implemented through various assimilation and ‘protection’ policies by the late 19th century. Many Indigenous children were forcibly taken away from their families in the name of assimilation during the 1950s and 1960s. These children are known as the ‘Stolen Generations’. They were brought up in institutions or fostered to non-Indigenous families. This removal was official government policy in Australia until 1969.

By the 1980s, welfare and community groups spoke out about the governments' social welfare practice being discriminatory against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This forced a reappraisal of removal and placement practice during the 1980s. In 1980 the family tracing and reunion agency Link-Up Aboriginal Corporation was established. Similar services now exist throughout Australia.

Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tabled a motion in parliament on 13 February 2008, apologising to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly the Stolen Generations and their families and communities, for the laws and policies that inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss. The apology included a proposal for a policy commission to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in matters such as life expectancy, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.

"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… For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry." Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, 13 February 2008.

Churches of Christ in Queensland is committed to reconciliation, and continues to implement our Reconciliation Action Plan, including a range of practical activities to build stronger relationships and greater respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.


Posted May 26, 2016 in News