National Sorry Day: Three stories of survival as we pause to remember the Stolen Generations

Today is National Sorry Day in Australia. Commemorated annually, National Sorry Day is a time for all Australians to pause and remember the Stolen Generations – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who suffered as a result of past government policies and practices of forced child removal and assimilation.

It is a day when Australians acknowledge the trauma and loss that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities suffered due to these policies and their ongoing effects.

While National Sorry Day is marked annually on May 26, it was actually on 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal National Apology on behalf of the Australian Parliament to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the government’s policies that led to the Stolen Generations.

Several years ago, Eternity published a prayer for National Sorry Day that had been prepared by the Wontulp-Bi-Buya Indigenous Theology Working Group in 1997. Wontulp-Bi-Buya is the Queensland partner of Nungalinya College, Darwin, and provides Indigenous leadership training for church and community.

Two years ago, Eternity asked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians, who had grown up since the Stolen Generation, to reflect on where they were, what they were doing and what the National Apology meant to them. You can read their varied and moving accounts here.

This year, we want to draw our readers’ attention to three stories from survivors of the Stolen Generation that are buried In Eternity’s archives and they may not have read.

The first is a bite-sized, good news story that is written by Naomi Reed as part of her ‘Faith Stories‘ series with Eternity. In Mum said she let us go. But we were actually part of the Stolen Generation, May shares how she was taken from her mother to Bombaderry.

The second, is a tough read and a must-read. It is the story Aboriginal activist and actor Uncle Jack Charles made history with in April this year. Uncle Jack was the first person to share their story in the public hearings of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. He told the Commission that, as a four-month-old, he was taken from his Bunurong mother at Daish’s Paddock, an Aboriginal camp near Shepparton. Read it here: ‘You put a church on this death camp, it becomes a mission’ Aboriginal elder tells justice commission.

The third story is nothing short of inspirational. It is the story of Uncle Shane Phillips, CEO of Tribal Warrior, a grassroots organisation has helped reduce crime rates in Sydney’s inner suburb of Redfern. Shane’s family are survivors of the Stolen Generation – his mum’s grandfather went to war and, soon after, the family’s kids were removed, not to be reunited until they were adults.

Working daily with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in Redfern, Shane sees firsthand how that government practice has an ongoing effect on the current generation. But, Shane argues, local Indigenous communities are critical to “fixing” their own problems – and he’s got the runs on the board to prove it. Don’t miss Strengthen a community and anything is possible, says Aboriginal Christian leader.