The continuing impact of forcible removal policies on families of the Stolen Generations has been highlighted at a Charles Darwin University event marking the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
In Parliament on 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said sorry to acknowledge the pain and suffering caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the forcible removal of children from their families, culture and country.
CDU Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership and Regional Outreach Professor Reuben Bolt said improving awareness of the history of the Stolen Generations was “extremely important”.
“We need to develop a deep understanding of the impact that forcible removal policies had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities across Australia,” Professor Bolt said.
“Increased awareness of our shared past can assist Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to move forward together.
“Marking the anniversary of the National Apology acknowledges the deep impact on our communities, and our identities, yet at the same time it celebrates the strength and courage of our Stolen Generation heroes.”
Special guest speaker at the event was Senior Australian of the Year, educator, activist and artist Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann.
Dr Ungunmerr Baumann said much healing is still needed amongst Aboriginal people.
“There are a lot of sad things about our nation’s past that the nation has not yet healed. The wounds. There is still sadness in the hearts and lives of our people – because of the policies of forcibly taking children away from their mothers, culture and country,” Dr Ungunmerr Baumann said.
Dr Ungunmerr Baumann told the story of her own sister taken away at two years old because she had a white father.
She encouraged all people – politicians, researchers and ordinary citizens – to sit and listen on country to fully understand the needs of Aboriginal people.
“When are we going to start listening? Come and sit with me on country. Come and sit and listen to what the needs are. I’d like people to connect. It’s a better way of doing things,” she said.
Dr Ungunmerr Baumann became the Northern Territory’s first fully qualified teacher in 1975. She has since been awarded an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University and an Order of Australia medal.
She has also established the Miriam Rose Foundation to help young people in the Nauiyu Community of the Northern Territory to “walk in two worlds”.
Guests at the event included members of the Stolen Generations, Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Member for Solomon Luke Gosling, CDU Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Wilson and former Australian of the Year, Australian National University Professor Mick Dodson.