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Speech to the morning tea to mark the fourth anniversary of the National Apology Anniversary, Canberra

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Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister for Disability Reform

Morning tea to mark the fourth anniversary of the National Apology Anniversary

Parliament House, Canberra

13 February 2012  

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I want to thank Aunty Matilda House who always gives us a lovely welcome to country.

I would like to acknowledge my Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues - Kevin Rudd, Julie Collins, Mark Butler, Rob Oakeshott, Claire Moore, Peter Garrett, Dr Tom Calma, Florence Onus and Debra Hocking, Co-Chairs of the Healing Foundation and the Members of the Stolen Generations and the groups that work so hard to support them.

It is a pleasure to be with you all today at Parliament House to mark this significance of the day four years ago, when our nation took such an important step towards healing and reconciling. To begin our formalities today I would like to welcome Michael West and Sally Fitzpatrick from the National Sorry Day Committee.

Thank you Michael and Sally from the National Sorry Day Committee for presenting these important documents that mark the journey of the Stolen Generations so far and for this beautiful message stick (carved by Wiradjuri Artist Duncan Smith.)The presentation of these documents is a significant way to mark the fourth anniversary of the National Apology.

They are a set of documents which reflect both our history and the ongoing journey we are taking to continue the process of healing.

They represent a story of courage and determination.

A determination to provoke the public consciousness of our nation and get recognition.

They date back to 1938, when a group of 1000 Indigenous people met in Sydney to call for:

Full citizenship status and equality within the community.

And they include the long-awaited Parliamentary Apology 70 years later.

When, on the 13th of February 2008, we acknowledged the pain and suffering caused by previous government policies and said “We are sorry”.

These documents are a great testament to the strength of Indigenous people.

The spirit of reconciliation and healing embodied in these documents can help guide us all as we prepare to take the next big step in our journey of reconciliation.

To recognise our first people in the Constitution.

To have the foundation document for our laws and our government reflect the special place Indigenous Australians hold our nation.

As custodians of the oldest continuing cultures in the world, and of our land, and for the contributions made to our nation, both past and present.

It is an exciting time. And I am excited by the opportunity this presents us to continue to build stronger relationships and unite communities.

I accept these seven documents with thanks.

I am pleased to say that the documents will become a special collection in the Parliamentary library and will be displayed each year on the Anniversary of the Apology and on National Sorry Day on 26 May.

I would also like to congratulate NSDC on the development of their new education resource to support teachers, students and commemorate the Apology Anniversary and Sorry Day.

And I want to thank the National Stolen Generations Alliance and the National Sorry Day Committee for their contributions to this significant day.

These include activities such as healing workshops and a Seminar here at Parliament House.

Aptly called Taking the Next Steps, the seminar is considering how the effects of removal should be incorporated into the training of key professions.

I know that an enormous amount of work has gone into the Seminar and I am sure it will be a success.

I would also particularly like to thank all the members of the Stolen Generations who have joined us here today.

A sense of togetherness is one of the great legacies of the Apology.

Over the weekend and today community groups across the continent are also marking the fourth anniversary.

More than 100 community groups have been supported with grants of up to $500 from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.

The Australian Government provided the funding for these grants because we know how important it is to have healing and understanding at the community level.

And because we want to continue to further this process the Government has contributed funding of over $170,000 to the Testimonies website I am launching today.

The website is a most poignant - at times chilling - record of a brutal period in Australian history.

Told from the point of view of those who suffered and survived.

More than 30 members of The Stolen Generations share their lives and experiences through telling their stories on the website.

By telling their own stories, they give us a more intimate perspective on past events.

Marjorie Woodrow reflects the spirit that is evident in all these stories:

I want the world to know the story so we can work side by side together to make this place a better place to live in …

A wonderful message for all Australians to hear.

I thank and congratulate everyone who has given their testimony on this website.

It has taken great courage, and great strength.

I would also like to acknowledge the work and support of the Stolen Generations Testimonies Foundation, Rio Tinto Aboriginal Foundation and the Hunt Foundation for making the website possible.

I am very honoured to launch the Testimonies website.

The website and the documents handed over today are most important reminders of why Australia needed to say Sorry.

And of how we must shape our future, so that we never forget to give meaning to that word.

I would now like to introduce Melanie Hogan from the Stolen Generations’ Testimonies Foundation and Donna Meehan a Stolen Generations member who has so generously shared her story through the Testimonies project.

Thank you Donna, for your generosity and courage and for sharing your story with us.

I would now like to welcome Jim Morrison and Hazel Martin from the National Stolen Generations Alliance.

Thank you all for coming. I would like to invite you all to mingle, exchange stories, and enjoy the morning tea that is now available.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day in whatever you are doing to mark this important anniversary.