Artwork by Leah Cummins
May 28, 2024

As we observe another Sorry Day and National Reconciliation

As we observe another Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week, it is imperative to reflect on our shared histories, cultures, and the journey towards reconciliation. This time is a significant moment in that journey as we reaffirm our commitment to building a just future for First Nations peoples.

But before we talk about moving forward, we need to look back at how we got here.   

On 26 May 1997, Australia was forced to confront one of the most shameful chapters of its post-colonial history.   

On that fateful day almost three decades ago, the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament.   

It detailed how successive Australian governments, from the early 20th century to as late as the 1970s, ruthlessly enforced a policy of separating indigenous children from their families. They came to be known as the Stolen Generations.  

The first National Sorry Day was held in 1998, on the one-year anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report. It has since grown into a nation-wide acknowledgment of those historic crimes and led the way to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology in 2008, itself a recommendation of the Bringing Them Home report.  

Sorry Day represents a significant step in Australia’s journey towards reconciliation. It’s a poignant reminder of the historical injustices inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly the Stolen Generations. It’s also a reminder of their strength and resilience. As public support has waxed and waned over the decades, First Nations people have remained steadfast in their commitment to demanding recognition of historic wrongs and remediation, eventually leading to reconciliation.    

The day provides an opportunity for all Australians to acknowledge and express empathy for the trauma they have endured, and to reflect on the ongoing impact of those past misdeed.  

Sorry Day is immediately followed by National Reconciliation Week.  

At CPA, recognising this week is vital to demonstrating our commitment to Reconciliation. It’s a chance for us to collectively reflect on the actions we can take to contribute to a more just future for First Nations peoples and communities.  

This year’s theme, “Now More Than Ever,” is a reminder that the struggle for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is timely and ongoing. While progress has been made there are still many challenges ahead. Even in moments of division, turning away is not an option, Reconciliation Australia reminds us. We must confront the unfinished business of reconciliation head-on.   

In partnership with Reconciliation Australia, CPA reaffirms our dedication to standing up against racism and advocating for the voices of Indigenous communities to be heard and respected.  

As we navigate this critical period, it is essential that we deepen our cultural understanding, foster connections, and take meaningful steps towards reconciliation.  

One way is by taking the Indigenous Ally pledge online and share it with your networks.  

More than six million Australians who voted YES to constitutional recognition have shown their commitment to First Nations peoples. They are allies, standing with First Nations people in solidarity. As supporters of reconciliation, it is our duty to uphold their rights, to call out racism wherever we see it, and to amplify the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples calling for justice.  

Now more than ever, our work continues. From treaty-making to truth-telling, from education to tackling racism, each of us has a role to play. We need connection, respect, action, and change to pave the way for a reconciled nation.  

As we mark National Reconciliation Week, let us remember that this is a time for reflection, meaningful participation and to recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.   

Together, let’s honour the past, acknowledge the present, and work towards a future where reconciliation is not just an aspiration, but a reality.