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Young people read out Kevin Rudd’s Stolen Generation apology. Images: Courtesy Clarence Valley Aboriginal Healing Centre

Apology anniversary: it’s about respect

Geoff Helisma | On Tuesday February 13, the Clarence Valley Healing Centre, in partnership with Social Futures, hosted the 10-year anniversary celebration of the apology to the Stolen Generation. Held in Market Square, Grafton, Uncle Roger Duroux performed the welcome to country and the Us Mob Dancers provided some entertainment. A group of youths recited the apology given by Kevin Rudd in 2007 and a lilly pilly tree was planted to mark the occasion. The healing centre’s coordinator, Janelle Brown, said it was “wonderful that the apology was made, and there has been progress”. She said the funding of the Healing Foundation, which in turn funds the valley’s healing centre, was a direct result of the apology and had assisted families and communities. Meanwhile, the NSW Government is amid its response to the Unfinished Business report, which enquired into reparations for the Stolen Generation. The response was tabled on December 2, 2016, and the government “accepted the majority of the recommendations and officially acknowledged the enduring trauma caused by the historic government policies and practices of removing Aboriginal children from their families, communities and culture”. Three of the 35 recommendations were “accepted in principle”, one was “not accepted at this time” and one – to “re-establish the Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme to continue repaying the ‘stolen wages’ of Aboriginal people” was “not accepted”. The NSW Government stated in its response that “a reopened Scheme would likely incur significant administrative costs for relatively little benefit and raise community expectations that cannot be met”. However, Ms Brown pointed out that other states have “looked at the stolen wages” issue. For example, the Queensland Government is in the process of assessing applications to its reparations scheme (due in June 2018), fulfilling its 2015 election promise to provide an “additional $21 million funding, over 3 years, to further address the longstanding historical issue of controlled wages and savings from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders”. Yaegl elder Elizabeth Smith said the day’s celebration was “very successful” with “a lot of community people there, indigenous and non-indigenous. She said there was more to be done, however, to further the reconciliation process. “There needs to be more education and people getting around a table and talking,” she said. Ms Smith concurred with Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia, who, while reflecting on the apology, said it is important for Australians to “stand up and own our history”. “It’s not about dates,” she said, “it’s actually about accepting our history. “It’s about understanding how that history affects who we are today and how it has a continuing impact on where we are going into the future.” Ms Smith said: “We need to build a bridge and move forward with education and respect.” The Clarence Valley Healing Centre, which is located at the Gurehlgam Corporation office in Grafton, is funded by the Healing Foundation. Gurehlgam Corporation is an Aboriginal owned and run not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve the life of Aboriginal people and families in northern New South Wales. Social Futures (Lismore) is a community-based not-for-profit organisation that promotes fairness and social inclusion in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
(L-R) Lyneive Bancroft (Bundjalung/ Gumbaynggirr) Elizabeth Smith (Yaegl) and Gladys Drech. Images: Courtesy Clarence Valley Aboriginal Healing Centre.