Sorry Day is held on the 26th of May each year, to recognise and remember those who have been affected by the forced removal of Indigenous children.
The term Stolen Generations refers to the systematic separation of children from their families under formal government policy. The forced removal of Indigenous children took place since the 1800s and continued until the latter half of the 20th Century.
In Queensland, the “chief protector” was considered the legal guardian for all Aboriginal children from 1897 until 1966. This meant that up to 1966, any decision made to remove an Indigenous child from their family was condoned by law. Even after the repeal of this law, some children were still forcibly removed. Between 1910 and 1970, 10 to 30 % of Indigenous children were removed from their families and communities.
In the 1980s and 90s, the wider Australian community gradually became more aware, as Aboriginal groups called for recognition. In 1995, the federal attorney-general answered the call to establish a national inquiry. A total of 777 people and organisations provided evidence or submissions to the inquiry. 535 Indigenous people told of their experiences of forcible removal.
The outcome of this inquiry, The Bringing Them Home Report, was tabled in federal parliament on the 26th of May, 1997. The report revealed the extent of forced removal policies, the abuse suffered as a result, and the ongoing impacts on those removed and on their families.
The observance of a national Sorry Day was initiated by the National Stolen Generation Working Group and has occurred since 1998.
The Bringing Them Home Report concluded that due to the ongoing effects of removal, including loss of language and culture, interruption to education and development, damaged or destroyed connection to heritage and land, as well the obvious damage to family ties, the trans-generational impacts are still felt today.
Each May we observe Sorry Day to recognise and pay respect to those who have suffered and to acknowledge this national shame. Only from this place of recognition can we move forward together.
The annual Balaangala Sorry Day ceremony takes place on the closest weekend to the 26th of May.