It has been 14 years since former prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised on behalf of the Australian government to First Nations people whose lives had been irreparably damaged by past government policies of forced child removal and assimilation.

His speech in parliament on 13 February 2008 acknowledged the hurt, pain, suffering, and humiliation experienced by Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants as a result of the racist government policies.

On that day, crowds of people across Australia gathered to witness the first-ever National Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in what is now remembered annually as National Apology Day.

To commemorate the 14th anniversary, Link-Up (QLD) hosted a morning tea at the QLD performing arts centre on Monday, February 14.

For the past 37-years, Link-Up has been working to reunite members of the Stolen Generations with their families after being forcibly removed and separated from communities and culture.

CEO Patricia Thompson told NIRS News, the annual event is an opportunity to come together as a community to reflect, grieve and acknowledge the harm done to Stolen Generations as well as honour the strength and resilience of First Nations people.

Pat Thompson’s full interview with NIRS News

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Bringing them Home report which shone a light on the deep trauma and injustice of the Stolen Generations.

SNAICC – the national peak body representing the interests of First Nations children and families used National Apology Day to call on governments to deliver on promises made in the Apology by investing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and services.

SNAICC chairperson Muriel Bamblett said almost two decades later SNAICC is still trying to negotiate government action on the report’s 54 recommendations.

The Australian Government’s commitment to the promises delivered in the Apology must be fulfilled through meaningful investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and services” said SNAICC Chairperson Muriel Bamblett.  

“Today we call on all state and territory governments to review the 54 recommendations within the report and make their progress against those recommendations public. The report’s strong recommendations for reforming the nation’s child protection systems, and legislation to guide community self-determination must be delivered” said Bamblett.  

Muriel Bamblett speaking with NIRS News

According to The Healing Foundation’s Make Healing Happen report from 2021, Stolen Generations survivors are more likely to not own a home, have worse finances, have experienced violence, suffer from a disability, and to have a criminal record.

The trauma and pain caused by the past government policies, being ripped from their families, disconnected from country, culture, and community effects not only Stolen Generations survivors but extends down to their children, and their children’s children.

Additionally, rates of child removal in Australia have continued to rise over the last decade, with First Nations children ten times more likely to be removed, with over 21,000 in out of home care as of December 2021, with that number projected to increase by a further 54% by 2031.

The Healing Foundation Board Chair Professor Steve Larkin said the descendants of Stolen Generations survivors continue to be overrepresented in out-of-home care, causing additional trauma for these families and communities.

Steve Larkin speaking with NIRS News

Prime minister Scott Morrison also received backlash from First Nations leaders, politicians and advocates last week after asking for forgiveness on the anniversary of the National Apology.

During a speech to Parliament on Monday, Mr Morrison said forgiving was harder than apologising.

The First People’s Assembly of Victoria, which is responsible for developing a treaty with the state government, wrote an official response to the prime ministers speech stating simply “get in the bin.”

While,  First People’s Assembly co-chair Aunty Geraldine Atkinson tweeted: “I’m horrified”.

Greens Senator and Djab Wurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe said the prime minister had shown ‘outright disrespect’ to the First Nations children forcibly removed from their families under past Australian government polices.

“How dare you ask for forgiveness when you still perpetrate racist policies and systems that continue to steal our babies. That is not an apology,” Senator Thorpe said in a statement.

Professor Steve Larkin said forgiveness requires acts of atonement.

Steve Larkin responds to Scott Morrison’s comments