National Sorry Day

Back home in Canberra the prime minister is making this historic apology on behalf of the Parliament and the Government of Australia:

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

Today I am proud to be Australian.

Sometimes it really sucks to be so far from home . . .


  1. maureen johnson on #

    holy crap. that is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read.

  2. John Green on #

    If Obama doesn’t get the nomination, is there any chance we can get this guy to run for President in the US?

  3. aden on #

    Good on ya, Oz.

  4. Ettina on #

    Sorry for being off-topic.
    I read Magic or Madness and found it interesting, but I think it’s terrible how they’d rather die young than go crazy. After all, if death is better than going crazy, why would killing Sarafina be wrong?
    I wrote an entry on my blog about that book.

  5. stormywriting on #

    Now if only our dear president could follow suit. How incredibly awesome.

  6. Gabrielle on #

    Wow, that was amazing. I don’t know what else to say. Today, I wish I were Australian. Heh.

  7. jonathan on #

    Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

  8. hillary! on #

    It’d be awesome if Americans un general woulod vote for someone that intelligent. But the majority prefer people in power to seem like normal people, not people in power. That apoplogy is made of AWESOME!

  9. capt. cockatiel on #

    That was pretty much beautiful.

  10. celsie on #

    Is this a yearly apology, or one made whenever a new prime minister is chosen? You said historic, so I’m assuming this has happened before.

    I think it’s amazing that the government’s making an apology for past wrongs. There are several groups in the US that might appreciate a similar, sincere speech.

  11. julie on #

    Hi everyone.

    I haven’t posted here before but have been reading the posts for quite a while, after seeing Justine at a speculative fiction conference here in Brisbane almost two years ago.

    Yes, it’s a long-awaited and inspiring moment; one of those historical moments that in years to come, you’ll be glad you lived to see.

    Justine, you probably haven’t seen the newcasts showing hundreds of aboriginal people packing planes, trains and buses on the way to Canberra to witness the event first hand. They are simply beaming with happiness. Very moving indeed. I hadn’t even considered that it would become such a ‘people’ event; I’d always imagined it as a press release or a televised ‘message from the prime minster’ – like the Queen’s Xmas message! Never saw it as a ‘physical’ event at all. So glad it is though; this will give the message a kind of tangibility and life that it would not otherwise have had.

    I’m also pleased that the apology is not just focusing on the stolen generation as many other wrongs have been done over the past 200 years.

    My only criticism is that, in the rush to atone for wrongs done to one sector of the nation, we don’t forget that many other people – whites included – had children removed and placed in other households and families otherwise displaced or dispersed back in then (and that includes up to the 1970s at least) who, these days, would have been assisted to keep their families together. It’s not only indiginous people who have suffered due to the government of the day’s big brother ‘we know best’ approach to social issues.

    All in all, it’s a wonderful thing to see and hopefully will bring some comfort to the older people, and help repair some of the damage done. Most of all, we should hope it will be a lesson to future governments to remind them that their purpose is to support society not fragment it.

    By the way, Parliament opened this year with a traditional welcome ceremony by a female elder from the traditional owners of the land where Parliament House now stands, and this ceremony will now be an annual event.

  12. julie on #

    Sorry for the typos!

  13. dory on #

    I’m with John on that. That guy is awesome. I want to go to Australia now.

  14. lili on #

    john: you can’t have him. he’s ours.

    celsie: it’s never been done before. it’s historic because people have been demanding it for years and the previous government refused because they were small and petty and pathetic and miserable. all the previous living prime ministers of australia were there today EXCEPT the tiny, tiny man who was our most recent leader. i hope he is ashamed.

  15. emmaco on #

    It was wonderful to be so proud of something our Parliament was doing. As with the election, I say yay internet for letting us Aussies overseas join in important national events!

  16. Mahek on #

    And he doesn’t mean it. Seriously guys, people in politics lie and when they say sorry, they don’t mean it.

    I don’t have anything against Australians but if someone tells me something I won’t believe it. I don’t even see how he can say sorry to these people.

    Well, since he said sorry to them, it’s time the US government say sorry to the Native Americans.

  17. Mark on #

    That is a great set of words and a great sentiment. Hopefully actions will follow, as the cynic in me notes that there is nothing concrete, just “sorry about all the bad laws” and no “we will get them fixed” but it is a massive step in the right direction and should make Australia that much better

  18. Justine on #

    Mark: I’ve just posted the complete speech in which all sorts of action is promised following the four-minute apology, which is the text above. I am very optimistic.

  19. C. Cooper on #

    Ah, more of what Nesta Marley would call “redemption songs”. Clinton tried the public apology/collective contrition route too. Then as now I find myself muttering dialogue from the Jodie Foster movie *Contact*, “small moves, Sparks, small steps.” We all know the toughest work is always to turn lip-service into public service. Governmental contrition has to trickle down into concrete improvements in the day-to-day reality of historically oppressed peoples before I feel ready to applaud. And yet…and yet….

  20. chris. on #

    Wow, this is awesome. The Shrub administration has made me feel pretty ashamed of my species, but this speech is giving me hope for the human race again. May it be the 1st of many such steps, and the 1st step toward action.

    Justine, i’m sorry you had to be so far from home.

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