National Sorry Day holds hope for healing

Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships The Honourable Craig Crawford

Wakka Wakka man David Wragge, who spent six years as a

Queenslanders are being urged to reflect on our state’s history this National Sorry Day and commit to making change to help the nation to heal.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said National Sorry Day, observed annually on 26 May ahead of National Reconciliation Week, marked the anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report in the Australian Parliament in 1997.

“The Bringing Them Home report was a significant milestone in Australia’s journey of reconciliation, one which shone a light on the experiences of survivors of laws and government policies that saw thousands of children forcibly removed from their families and communities,” he said.

“Reconciliation requires us all to be courageous and face up to the truth of our history, because truth-telling allows healing to begin.

“As a government, we remain committed to the journey of reconciliation, and progressing a Path to Treaty in our state with First Nations peoples.

“While we cannot change the past, by acknowledging it we can make change and create a future where all Queenslanders, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and non-Indigenous people have what they need to reach their full potential.

“Today on National Sorry Day, I pay particular tribute to Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities, and acknowledge their immense strength and resilience.”

Wakka Wakka man David Wragge, who also has traditional connections to Ghungalu, Juru, Bindal and Wulgurukba peoples, said his experience as a child living in the Cherbourg Mission motivated him in his work to help individuals, families and communities heal and begin to thrive.

“History is not something that we can just leave in the past – we carry around unfinished business in the present,” he said.

“I spent six years as a “dormitory boy” in Cherbourg, from 1967-1973, and it was a hard life.

“Everything was regimented – you had no life and no rights, and what I went through is still with me today.

“What we experienced in the past flows on to our children, and to our grandchildren, so it is important we are able to heal from those experiences.

“It’s important to share my stories to educate the next generation, because telling the truth about the past, good and bad, means we can find ways to move forward together.”

Mr Wragge said National Sorry Day was a day of hope because it was about joining together as a nation to create a new future.

“Sorry Day is a very important day for us – for all of us,” he said.

“It is a day of hope, because it means change is happening, and that change is good for everyone – reconciliation is good for everyone, not just Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.”

Mr Wragge has been heavily involved with the Healing Foundation since 2010, and currently sits on the Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group.

He said it was especially important for young people to have leaders they can look up to.

“A lot of the work I do now is about supporting local leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” he said.

“We help draw out those strengths and support people to be leaders in their families and communities, because leaders show young people what is possible for them.

“When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lead the way – that’s how we create lasting change.”

David Wragge

David is a Wakka Wakka man from Cherbourg, Queensland with traditional connections also to Central Queensland (Ghungalu), and North Queensland (Juru, Bindal and Wulgurukba).

A Cherbourg Elder and Traditional Owner, David is a Stolen Generations survivor. He was separated from his family when he was aged nine and forced to live in a boys’ dormitory.

He has previously worked for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and with the Queensland Court’s Murri Court program. He is currently a member of The Healing Foundation‘s Stolen Generations Reference Group.

David is an advocate for the protection of children, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

He believes that our children must be protected and taught about their respective cultural connections to the land and our traditional lore.

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