HREOC media release: Essentials for social justice start with saying sorry

11 December 2007

Essentials for social justice start with saying sorry

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma will today join federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, The Hon. Jenny Macklin MP, when she officially launches Us Taken-Away Kids, a magazine commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the ‘Bringing them home’ report.

Commissioner Calma said the ‘Us Taken-Away Kids’ magazine represents artwork and stories from members of the ‘Stolen Generations’ throughout Australia, and serves as a testament to the resilience of Aboriginal people and their ability to triumph in the face of despair.

“While there has been some improvements since the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) ‘Bringing them home’ report was released in 1997, including the Indigenous child placement principle in child protection, greater funding for organisations supporting ‘Stolen Generations’ members and a national Sorry Day, we still need to do so much more,” Commissioner Calma said.

Mr Calma will also launch HREOC’s updated educational materials about the ‘Bringing them home’ report aimed at secondary schools. This is linked to national educational curricula and available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/education/bth/

Commissioner Calma will use his launch speech to deliver the first of a series of headline speeches setting out an agenda for change in Indigenous affairs.

In the series, titled Essentials for Social Justice, the first speech, ‘Sorry’, will identify the essential ingredients for a national apology to the Stolen Generations.

Mr Calma argues for an apology - which must be done in a consultative and respectful manner, and one which is specifically about forcible removals.

He will call for the apology to be done in such a way that it unifies the nation, rather than divides it, and one that is forward-looking and aspirational for a united future for all Australians. The timing of the apology should not be rushed, and should provide a catalyst for the states and territories to be held accountable for their responsibilities in implementing ‘Bringing them home.’

Other speeches in the series to be delivered over the next four months include: ‘Reform’ - about whole-of-government approaches; ‘Health’ - about health equality, close the gap and overcoming disadvantage; ‘Land and culture’ - where he will discuss economic development and 99-year leases; and ‘Justice’ -  looking at family violence, child abuse and criminal justice issues. The final speech is expected to be delivered in early April. Titled ‘The Future’, it will review the first months of Indigenous policy of the new federal government and pull together the essentials for achieving true social justice for Indigenous people.

The ‘Us Taken-Away Kids’ magazine is available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/bth/taken/ or can be ordered from the HREOC publications officer on 02 9284 9600 or online at www.humanrights.gov.au/about/publications/.

Media contact: Louise McDermott, 02 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597