The 12th Anniversary of the National Apology to indigenous Australians was held on Thursday 13 February in Shepparton’s Queen’s Gardens.
Mooroopna-born Lena-Jean Charles-Loffel was the guest speaker at the event. Lena works at Aboriginal health promotion business Spark Health, engaging with the Aboriginal community at a grassroots level.
Greater Shepparton Mayor Cr Seema Abdullah was honoured to speak at the breakfast ceremony. Cr Abdullah used the opportunity to express her own feelings on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology on behalf of the nation, and how Australia as a nation needs to understand and acknowledge the truth of our history.
Cr Abdullah’s speech is included below in full.
Apology Breakfast 2020 – Mayoral Speech
Mayor, Cr Seema Abdullah
Thursday 13 February 2020 at Queen’s Gardens, Shepparton
We, Greater Shepparton City Council, acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land which now comprises Greater Shepparton. We pay respect to their tribal Elders, we celebrate their continuing culture and we acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.
Good morning everyone. Welcome here today to commemorate the
12th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group and partners, involved in organising this annual Apology Breakfast. Your support has been invaluable.
It is so important for us to continue to acknowledge the anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s national apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The National Apology was an acknowledgement of the truth of mistreatment, inter-generational trauma and harm caused to the stolen generation, their families and communities. We believe this was the start of the healing process. But it wasn’t, and still isn’t, enough.
As Australians, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on our nation’s past. We need to understand and acknowledge the truth of our history.
So, I challenge all of you in here today – particularly the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People here – to seek to educate yourselves about the oldest continuing culture in the world.
I challenge you to understand the terms ‘self-determination’, ‘tokenism’, and ‘reconciliation’.
I challenge you to think about what true cultural safety is, and to strive to ensure cultural safety for those you interact with.
I challenge you to read the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
I challenge you to understand the concept of white privilege.
I challenge you to seek out information about the treaty process and constitutional recognition.
I challenge you to listen to conversations about Australia Day.
I challenge you to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People when they choose to speak about their culture, beliefs, environmental knowledge, art, and kinship systems.
I challenge you to imagine the hardship and trauma caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples since colonisation.
I challenge you to understand that right now, we are facing another stolen generation – with more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids being removed from home now than when the Apology was made.
In June 2019, Greater Shepparton City Council adopted its first Reconciliation Action Plan. The plan has the following vision and statement:
“A future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have equitable access, inclusion and opportunities, and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ cultures are honoured and respected.”
I challenge our Council and community to continue to strive for the achievement of that vision, and to continue to search for ways for us all to do better.
I am challenging us all – not because I want to make you feel uncomfortable. But because it is only when we seek to truly understand, that real change can occur.