National Apology

Published on Monday 12 February 2024

Today marks the anniversary of the National Apology. On 13 February 2008, the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, publicly apologised on behalf of the federal government to the Stolen Generations.

The Stolen Generations refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were forcibly removed from their families and communities as children. This was specific legislation that targeted children on the sole basis of race and colour. While the apology did not deliver any tangible outcomes in reparation for these acts, it did offer some victims comfort in knowing that it was finally being acknowledged.

In our family group we call this day and Sorry Day on 26 May Dugul‐Djuyal Naruwurriyn, which translates as ‘truth speaking because of sorrow’. I come from three generations of stolen children in my family group. There will be very few First Nations family groups who have not been impacted. Research tells us that it will take up to six generations for the trauma to be processed in our family group if left unresolved or unacknowledged.

To give you an idea of the recency of this legislative practice, it operated for nearly a century and only ceased in most states by the 1970s. Many still experience the cyclical effects of child removal and consequently may be in contact with the child protection system today.

As the custodian of the Aborigines Welfare Board records held in the NSW State Archives Collection as well as other records relating to First Nations people created by other agencies, MHNSW acknowledges the significance of this sorry time for First Nations peoples and the impact it has on survivors and their descendants. We acknowledge accessing family information and histories is often a deeply personal journey, which we can support with help in searching the archival materials we have. You can search the State Archives Collection or Ask an Archivist for assistance.

Image above: A defining image of the Reconciliation Bridge Walk in 2000 with the word ‘Sorry’ in skywriting above. Photo © Jo-Anne Driessens. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Gulwanyang Moran

Gulwanyang Moran

Manager, First Nations Community Access to Archives

Gulwanyang Moran is a proud Birrbay and Dhanggati woman of the Gathang language group and Manager of the First Nations Community Access to Archives team at MHNSW. Gulwanyang is a power-conscious and experienced leader with over 20 years’ experience in Cultural Capability education and praxis. A passionate advocate of cultures and languages, Gulwanyang brings a wealth of knowledge working on the ground in her own peoples’ language and cultural reclamation work. Truth-telling, rematriation, anti-colonialism and supporting First Nations archivists centres the work she does within the galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) sector. Through facilitating statewide language education and cultural programs, she maintains her understanding of the aspirations and needs of language revitalisation communities. Gulwanyang holds a Master of Indigenous Languages Education and informs national policy through the National Language Policy Partnership group as an independent community representative.