By Stacey Campton, First Nations woman and Director of Strategy and Development at Children’s Ground
On my study wall I have a framed copy of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples signed by the then Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008. In this frame, I also have a response to the Apology from Auntie Lorraine Peeters. In the final sentence, she powerfully says, “We have a new covenant between our peoples to ensure our children (First Nations children) are carried forward, loved and nurtured and able to live a full life.”
I stood on the lawns of Parliament House that day with thousands of other people listening to the Apology delivered inside Parliament House. It was a sad, solemn day as we remembered those who were not with us to see and hear the words of the Apology – an apology that was decades overdue. It was also a day that the truth was told about the mistreatment and injustice of those children who were stolen from their families and communities and were subjected to suffering, grief and loss. Every First Nations person in some way has been touched by the generations of people that were taken from their Country, their place, their home, their mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, cousins.
The anniversary of the National Apology is a time to remember. ‘Lest we forget’ so they say. We should never let it happen again – and yet it is:
- There were 18,900 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care on 30th June 2020.
- One in every 18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in Australia is in out-of-home care.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 11 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care.
“To get to the destiny that we all want, we need to make the second step,” says Arrernte leader and Chair of Children’s Ground, William Tilmouth. “The first step was Sorry. The second step is needed to empower our people to move in the direction that they need to in order to overcome their disadvantage… Sadly there has been no second step.” We need to keep growing, listening and learning about our past so we can change our future. We need to empower those that are most disadvantaged. We need to invest in the future – in the power, ability, talent, identity and hope of our children who are the future. The change needs to be driven by First Nations people and we need non-First Nations Australians to stand with us to make the change.
Here is hoping in another year, when the next anniversary comes around, Australia has heeded the call of what an Apology means. How it must be the catalyst for the change we want to be and see, so that all the children are loved, nurtured and grow up to have a full life on this country.