National Sorry Day?
On May 26, there is an unofficial holiday in Australia called National Sorry Day. The day commemorates the day a national report called “Bringing Them Home” was official handed to the Australian government in 1997 after a two year inquiry.
The report symbolized the end to a national effort to make right a major wrong done to the native peoples of Australia.
The “Bring Them Home Report” Found That At Least 100,000 Children Were Forcibly Removed
The Stolen Generations
Starting in 1869 with the Aboriginal Protection Act, children of the indigenous peoples of Australia and children of mixed descent were forcibly removed from their parents’ homes with the government taking over guardianship powers over the children. The children were placed in government housing and raised away from their families. There were numerous reasons why this was done ranging from protection of the children to assimilating them into European society so the children could grow up and serve in European households. According to the Bring Them Home report, over 100,000 children had been forcibly removed from their homes in Australia over the years. However, the actual number is believed to be much higher but hard to calculate because for most of the time no record keeping.
Many have called the forced removals an act of genocide and almost all agree that while the stated intentions of the forced removals was to improve the lives of aboriginal peoples, the effect was to destroy families with little to no tangible results. The Children that were removed from their families have become known as the Stolen Generations.
The Bring Them Home Report
Forcible removal of children continued until the 1970s. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s much political and public debate occurred about the removal policies. In 1992, Australian Prime Minister Keating acknowledged for the first time that children were actually taken from the arms of their mothers by force. As a result of government acknowledgement of the child removal policies, an inquiry was held about the impact of the policies between 1995 and 1997. The Final Report entitled “Bringing Them Home – Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families” was released in 1997.
National Sorry Day Is Meant To Start The Healing Process
One year to the day after the Bringing Them Home Report was released, National Sorry Day began. The day commemorates and acknowledges the wrong that was done to the indigenous peoples of Australia. The point behind National Sorry Day was to try to let the healing process begin. The day also remembers other wrongs done to the Aboriginal people of Australia other than forcibly removing their children.
National Sorry day was held annually until 2004. It was then renamed National Day of Healing. However, after only one year the day again was renamed to National Sorry Day. Despite the public acknowledgment of what happened and the National Sorry Day, the Australian government has never formally apologized to the indigenous people for what was done.