The National Apology to the Stolen Generations was observed in Queens Gardens on the morning of 13 February 2016 at Queens Gardens, Shepparton. Queens Gardens was filled with participants, local indigenous community, students from local schools and civic leaders.
There is commitment, action and support of the indigenous communities of Shepparton and Dungala, Kaiela, the land of the two rivers, the Murray and the Goulburn. In this region we have active support for the future of our indigenous communities in partnerships that are found in collaboration, investment and positive social outcomes for the Yorta Yorta peoples. In this manner, we are all Yorta Yorta going forward. The Shepparton Regional Reconciliation Group once again provided the community with the Commemoration of the National Apology, held in Queens Gardens, Shepparton on Monday, 13 February.
The observance of the National Apology began with a smoking ceremony, designed to cleanse and purify all participating. The Welcome to Country was given by local indigenous leader, Aunty Merle Miller, in Yorta Yorta language, and then in English.
Aunty Merle Miller
Guest speaker Khiara Harrison reinforced the importance of the apology. “It is known that those who were removed and disconnected from their families and culture throughout their whole life suffered”, she said.
Khiara Harrison went on to say, “My main focus is educating my son and the generations to come, making sure they are aware of what happened”.
Guest Speaker Khiara Harrison
Mayor of the City of Greater Shepparton, Cr Dinny Adem addressed the gathering and told, that the apology delivered by Kevin Rudd in 2008 was merely the beginning of healing and the beginning of the awakening of modern-day Australia”.
Cr Adem went on to conclude, “Harness the empowering words of the apology and hold this day as one of hope, inspiration and motivation.”
The apology was read by Shepparton High School student Sara Hitchcock.
Well known local singer Lily Walker performed two traditional songs.
Co-Convenors Bobby Nicholson and Dierdre Robertson thanked many present for their attendance and their support for the growing harmony in our nation by attending the National Apology Breakfast.
Defining Moments: The Apology
The Western Australian government was the first state government to act, issuing its apology on 27 May 1997. By 2001, all state and territory governments had issued apologies. Only the Australian Government, under John Howard, demurred.
Indigenous people and their supporters began a campaign to spread awareness and build support in the broader Australian community for a federal apology. The National Sorry Day Committee organised many different events over the years including another of the National Museum’s Defining Moments, the 2000 Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
In 2007, the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd won the federal election and took office. It supported making a formal public apology to the victims of forced child removal, especially the Stolen Generations.
The Apology was the first item of business when Parliament opened in 2008, and was witnessed by the thousands of people gathered in Canberra for the event and was broadcast all over the country.
Mikey Robins discusses a Sorry badge with Professor Peter Read and National Museum of Australia curator Barbara Paulson. The National Apology to the Stolen Generations is one of the Museum’s Defining Moments in Australian History.
National Apology Breakfast, Shepparton, 2017