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Anniversary of the National Apology: 13 February 2016
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
On 13 February 2008, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd apologised in Parliament unreservedly for the past injustices to Indigenous Australians. The journey towards healing for Aboriginal people began. The National Apology was a significant step in our nation's journey towards healing the pain, suffering and hurt that has been caused to Aboriginal people as a result of past government policy and practice.
The Apology might just be words, but for many Aboriginal people those words "the acknowledgment of wrong doing" was an important step towards true healing and reconciliation. Aboriginal musician, Archie Roach, said that it was an apology not just for me, but for my mother and for my father and for my children who carry the burden and carry the weight of what happened to us stolen kids.
NSW is leading the efforts in the journey towards true healing and reconciliation. The NSW Parliament was the first in the Nation to make a formal apology to Aboriginal people for past injustices. On 19 October 2010, both sides of the NSW Parliament recognised Aboriginal people as the first people of this state in the Constitution.
The Apology calls for a future that embraces new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. OCHRE: NSW Government's community focused plan for Aboriginal affairs recognises the unique role and needs of Aboriginal people. OCHRE seeks to reset the relationship between Government and Aboriginal communities and recognises that we must work in partnership with (not to and for) Aboriginal people.
Many previous government programs and policies contributed significantly to the trauma, loss and pain felt by many Aboriginal people. Through OCHRE we are making steps to address these issues, particularly with our commitment to healing. Healing is a complex issue and OCHRE makes a commitment to working with Aboriginal communities to identify ways to deal with past trauma. Aboriginal wellbeing has social, economic, emotional, cultural and spiritual dimensions and healing needs to occur at the individual, family and community level. Healing is a process that takes time.
We have commitment from the NSW Government to work with Aboriginal communities, policy practitioners and service providers to advance the dialogue in NSW about trauma and healing and to begin developing responses informed by evidence of good practice and the real-life experiences of Aboriginal people.
We recognise the importance of Aboriginal people connecting to their identity, of knowing who they are and where they come from. We are only beginning our journey towards healing but the future is looking better. Tomorrow, I ask that we all reflect on where we have come from and where we are going together into the future.
Acting Head of Aboriginal Affairs