What Is National Sorry Day?

It’s May 26, and it’s National Sorry Day. But if you haven’t heard of this important event before, what is it? Reconciliation Australia states that this day is about remembering and acknowledging “the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.” They also detail that it centres on reflecting on the resilience of the Stolen Generations and considering what you can do to help these folks heal.

In 1998, the first National Sorry Day was held. It was one year after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in the National Parliament. This report was the culmination of a Government Inquiry into what policies resulted in children being stolen from their communities and families. In 2000, this day was used to call for an official apology from the government to the members of the Stolen Generations. On this day in 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was delivered by the Referendum Council’s Megan Davis at the First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru.

Aunty Lindy Lawler is a member of the Stolen Generations and finds National Sorry Day to be useful. She told the ABC, “I have six beautiful grandchildren and I look at them and say at least nothing happened to them and they never went through what their Aunty and myself went through.”

Many First Nations people and organisations have demonstrated that just saying sorry isn’t enough. Our governments need to make systematic changes in order to better support Aboriginal communities. As AbSec, an organisation that assists Aboriginal children and families, tweeted, “On #SorryDay we remember the systematic racism and oppression of Aboriginal peoples under government policies and pay our respects to the Stolen Generations. Sadly though, current statistics remind us the unwarranted removal of our kids from communities isn’t a thing of the past.” They then shared the fact that 41% of children in out-of-home care are Aboriginal. 

If you want to do something proactive on this National Sorry Day, then you should go to Pay the Rent and smash that donate button. This is because the money this organisation gets proactively supports Indigenous people and communities. As their website states, “This land was never empty; the sovereignty of First Nations people was never ceded… Paying the Rent is a step towards acknowledging these facts. It is part of a process that all non-Indigenous people – individually and collectively – need to enter into if we are to move towards justice, truth, equality and liberation for First Nations people.”

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