National Sorry Day Breakfast and launch of the Stolen Generations’ Working Partnership, Canberra
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Thank you Aunty Ruth Bell for the Welcome to Country.
I want to begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the traditional owners and by acknowledging the Elders past and present, especially the Elders who have travelled so far to be here today.
Also, Minister Warren Snowdon; my parliamentary colleagues; the Chairs of the National Sorry Day Committee and Stolen Generations Alliance; Mick Gooda, Social Justice Commissioner; Mick Dodson, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and the Chairs of the new National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
For all of us, our identity, our history, our culture is integral to defining who we are.
Knowing and having pride in who you are, and where you come from, is at the core of our strength and resilience. We are all grounded by this connection with our culture and our past.
Sadly for tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – members of the Stolen Generations – this connection was broken. For them, their past was a dark and frightening place – the children who were forcibly taken from their families under laws and practices directed at removing children of “mixed lineage”.
Between 1910 and the 1970s, between 10 and 30 per cent of Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their mothers and fathers. The damage inflicted by severing the bonds of family and community is immeasurable and ongoing.
It’s reflected in the heart-searing stories told in Bringing Them Home, the report co-authored by Mick Dodson and the late Sir Ronald Wilson. And stories like Barbara’s – which we just heard.
Stories of children placed in care but never cared for.
Of children robbed of their families’ love.
Of children taken from their families’ protection – and then abandoned and left unprotected.
Children who grew up feeling that something precious was missing – something very profound to their sense of self.
Thirteen years ago on this day, the Bringing them Home report was tabled in the Australian Parliament. And this Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the Bridge Walk when 250,000 people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to say sorry.
Saying sorry was the first item of business on the first day of Parliament for the newly-elected Rudd Government.
Since the National Apology, the Government has invested in practical measures essential to healing the grief and trauma. We have increased funding to over $25 million per year for Link Up services and Bringing Them Home counsellors – a funding increase of over 50 per cent since 2007.
We’ve allocated $26 million towards the establishment of a new and independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, with a strong focus on the healing needs and aspirations of the Stolen Generations.
I know Florence Onus and Debra Hocking from the new Healing Foundation, who are here this morning, are committed to the Foundation and its great potential to help people heal. They are both Survivors of the Stolen Generations.
When I look around here today I have a strong sense of optimism about what more we can accomplish together – not only to continue remembering and raising awareness but also through the power we have to make positive change.
Stolen Generations Working Partnership
Today I am inviting members of the Stolen Generations, your supporters and advocates – to work with the Government on a range of priority issues.
Through a new Stolen Generations Working Partnership, which I am launching with my colleague Minister Warren Snowdon.
I would like to sincerely thank the members and advocates from the Stolen Generations Alliance and the National Sorry Day Committee for their valuable contribution and advice in the development of this document.
In consultation with these bodies, we have identified priority issues.
Including the appropriate diagnosis and pathways to care for Stolen Generations members who have social and emotional wellbeing issues.
Recording their personal oral histories to honour their experiences and their resilience.
Creating places of belonging and acceptance where Stolen Generations can sustain and nurture their connection with one another – knowing that many have lifelong bonds after growing up in institutions together.
Supporting members of the Stolen Generations and their grown up children who are in prison – while they are there and when they are released – working collaboratively with the States and Territories.
Preserving the stories of the Stolen Generations – incorporating their resources into our education system as well as making the Stolen Generations part of our movement for reconciliation and NAIDOC community celebrations.
And increasing awareness among those who deliver services – Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
As part of the work we are doing, it will be important to look carefully at the recommendations from the Bringing Them Home Report.
We know that Stolen Generations want greater participation in decision-making about how services are delivered to them and to lead the development of their own solutions. Their needs are different to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To reach out and support survivors of the Stolen Generations, we must understand these differences and help others understand as well.
I know there is anxiety among some members of Stolen Generations about how they will be cared for as they grow older. Over the next 12 months, the Australian Government will develop educational materials that include making sure that people caring for care leavers, including elderly Stolen Generation members, know and understand their experiences.
The educational materials will be made available to aged care providers across the sector including Aged Care Assessment Teams and Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres; community based services such as the Home and Community Care Program and Community Aged Care Packages; and to residential service providers.
There is enormous potential to drive further positive change through the investments and reforms we are making.
I know many of you here are already involved in supporting the Stolen Generations.
Today I am encouraging you to look at the issues raised in the new Stolen Generations Working Partnership. To discuss them with your peers and colleagues. And to take the first, practical steps to cement and drive this new partnership.
We know from the Bringing Them Home Report, that organisations beyond government have a vital healing and restorative role. Today I ask all of you to join together, sharing common aspirations, in the Stolen Generations Working Partnership.