A historic moment in the journey towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
"For the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants, and their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers, and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry."
Twenty-five years on from a landmark report that documented the intergenerational impacts of the government's policy of the forcible removal of Indigenous children, Stolen Generations survivors and descendants say the work of healing and reconciliation remains incomplete.
- On 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood in Parliament and apologised to the Stolen Generations, First Nations people who were forcibly removed from their families, under the policy of successive governments between 1910 and 1970.
- The apology was one of 54 recommendations of a landmark 'Bringing Them Home' report tabled in the federal Parliament 11 years earlier.
- The new Anthony Albanese government says it is committed in the next three years to holding a referendum to change the Constitution to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, most likely in mid-2024.
The report was the result of the 1995 national inquiry conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that ran for two years and included 535 testimonies from the Indigenous Australians who were removed and became known as the Stolen Generations
One of those testimonies came from Ian Hamm, a Yorta Yorta who was separated from his mother when he was just three weeks old. He was only able to piece together what happened at the age of 19 when he was put in touch with the Victorian Aboriginal childcare agency.
The experience drove Mr Hamm to work to help other Stolen Generations survivors through support groups, including in his current role as chair of the Healing Foundation's Stolen Generations Reference Group.
One of his chief goals has been ensuring another key recommendation of the 'Bringing Them Home' report is implemented - including measures of restitution, re-habitation, and monetary compensation to deal with the intergenerational trauma.
"I think there is a real opportunity for Queensland and Western Australia to come to the high-water mark (standard) that Victoria has set - or maybe even go beyond it. But they need to do it quickly, they need to do it now. Stolen Generations people, we're getting older you know. I was born in 1964, so I guess I am at the younger end of those of the Stolen Generations. I turn 58 in a month. So there is no time to waste."