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Prime Minister sets date for formal apology to Stolen Generation; Stolen Generations Alliance welcomes this; Opposition wants wording of the apology made public.



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It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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PM

 

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Prime Minister sets date for formal apology to Stolen Generation; Stolen Generations Alliance welcomes this; Opposition wants wording of the apology made public

 

MA RK COLVIN: The Federal Government has now named a date to say a symbolic 'sorry' to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations. 

 

The formal apology from the Commonwealth will be offered as the first item of business for the new Parliament, exactly two weeks from today. 

 

The Opposition is calling for the wording of the apology to be made public before it's given, but the Stolen Generations Alliance has warmly welcomed the naming of the date. 

 

From Canberra Peta Donald reports. 

 

PETA DONALD: February the 13th, 2008 will be the day when the Australian Government says 'sorry' in the Parliament to the Stolen Generations. 

 

At the opening ceremony for the Parliament the day before there'll be the first ever 'welcome to country' given by an elder from the local Ngunnawal people. 

 

As for compensation, or other reparations like free health care, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made it clear again today, it won't be forthcoming. 

 

KEVIN RUDD: Our commitment to saying sorry is clear cut. I said so before the election - I said if we're elected we'd do it, and we're gonna do it.  

 

And, I've said repeatedly the reason for so doing is that there is unfinished business here on the part of the nation. We need to get this right because the symbolism of an apology is important. But, it's beyond that as well. As I said, it's building a bridge of respect which I think has been in some state of disrepair in recent decades.  

 

But having crossed that bridge, the other part of it, is all about practical business. The practical business for me is the program which Jenny Macklin and I have been talking about since the 40th anniversary of the ‘67 Referendum. 

 

And I'll draw your attention to the speech I have back then, which is on closing the gap "in closing the gap, in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, skills attainments and health outcomes for Indigenous people, is the core business". 

 

PETA DONALD: The Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin is still consulting on the content. She's spoken to the National Sorry Day Committee and the Stolen Generations Alliance, and met Malcolm Fraser and Lowitja O'Donohue. 

 

The Government's hoping for bi-partisan support in the Parliament but so far there've been mixed views from the Opposition.  

 

The Liberal Leader Brendan Nelson has questioned giving an apology such priority. And today the Deputy Leader Julie Bishop wanted to see the wording of the apology before saying whether or not she supports it. 

 

JULIE BISHOP: I would like to see what the Labor Government is proposing by way of an apology. In fact I think all Australians should be able to see the wording, what is proposed, before it's put to the Parliament. And I think Australians would want to know what is actually in the wording and what it means and have time to think about it.  

 

PETA DONALD: The Stolen Generations Alliance argues because it's an apology from the Government, the wording doesn't need to released and debated beforehand. 

 

The group's Indigenous co-chair Christine King says she's excited and overwhelmed that the date for the apology has been set. 

 

CHRISTINE KING: It shows that this government is really serious about what it means.  

 

It may be symbolic to many people in many different ways, but for us it shows that they're for real. 

 

PETA DONALD: What does it mean to you personally that there will be this formal apology to the Stolen Generations? What will it mean to you and your family? 

 

CHRISTINE KING: To me it means that my mother has lived her whole live under this policy from when she was taken when she was four years old and now that she is in her 80s, she will hear the Government say, 'I’m sorry' (tearful).  

 

And it means that all the other people in my family, who were taken away, including my sister and I, will be able to have that personal healing. 

 

PETA DONALD: How old were you when you were taken away? 

 

CHRISTINE KING: I was young. and I was with my sister so I was very lucky. Yeah, I'm sorry it's um… 

 

PETA DONALD: It's obviously very emotional. Do you think this apology will help you recover? 

 

CHRISTINE KING: This apology is the beginning of our healing process. It's wonderful. It really is wonderful and it shows great statesmanship on the part of our Prime Minister and leadership of this government that I have not seen in this country before. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Christine King, from The Stolen Generations Alliance speaking to Peta Donald.