The inquiry which was formally opened in June 2015 will continue with public hearings in Broken Hill today and in Walgett on tomorrow. The first stage of the inquiry is an opportunity for members of the community to provide written submissions or to speak at public hearings across NSW about their experiences and opinions of the NSW response to the policies.
Ms. Peeters spoke at the Sydney round of public hearings, telling the story of her eight siblings who were all taken and sent to Cootamundra Girls and Kinchela Boys homes. For the next fourteen years, she was trained as a domestic worker for white families, punished for speaking her language or even mentioning Aboriginal issues at all.
“We were brainwashed to act, speak and dress white; and even to think it. If we did not, and we forgot to be white, we were punished.”
An advocate for healing, Ms. Peeters has helped many other members of the Stolen Generations through her work as Director of Winangali-Marumali, a rehabilitative program she established in 2000. Her work has since spread to involve those incarcerated in Victorian prisons, with more than 250 participants completing the program in its first decade.
She also played a significant role in the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, presenting then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with a glass coolamon as a thank you gift in 2008. However, she is critical of the lack of further action by the NSW Government: “We have had an apology…that was in 1997, and not much else,” she told the ABC.
The final public hearing will occur on March 2 at Bomaderry Bowling Club in Nowra, with the last day for acceptance of written submissions on the March 10.
Chair of the Inquiry Committee, Ms. Jan Barham MLC says "the committee is keen to engage with as many people as possible on this important issue, and strongly encourages all individuals and groups, including non-indigenous people, to make a submission and attend the hearings".
The purpose of the Committee is to consider the response of the NSW Government to the recommendations of the 1997 ‘Bringing Them Home' report. They will analyse the community responses and present a final report to Parliament with their recommendations, which may include public acknowledgments, rehabilitation measures and monetary compensation.
Other states have implemented compensation schemes with South Australia establishing a $11 million fund in 2015 for those affected by its removal policies.
To send a written submission to the inquiry before March 10, 2016, visit the NSW Government website.