NATIONAL SORRY DAY
National Sorry Day is held on 26 May each year in Australia. This day gives people the chance to come together and share the steps towards healing for the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. Stolen generations refer to Indigenous Australians who were forcibly removed from their families and communities. It has since been renamed “National Day of Healing.”
The official survey, carried out by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, records a dark episode in Australian history, revealing the devastating details of the lives of those taken from their mothers and raised in orphanages and foster homes by whites in a misguided attempt to better assimilate them within Australian society. Many were beaten, raped and abused by their intended protectors, often in remote areas like the Northern Territory.
Officials and missionaries, arguing that the children would have more advantages in mainstream Australian society, took them to be raised in orphanages, boarding schools or white homes, according to a 2008 TIME story about the eventual apology. Other justifications smacked of eugenics, as with the argument by A. O. Neville, Australia’s Commissioner for Native Affairs in the 1930s, that people of Aboriginal descent could only be assimilated by “breeding out the colour.”
In 1999, conservative Prime Minister John Howard expressed “deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations,” but stopped short of apologizing.
It was eventually the next Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd who said sorry. Rudd made the apology his government’s first parliamentary act, just after his 2008 swearing-in. He vowed “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.