Bringing them home: Apologies by State and Territory Parliaments (2008)

Content of apologies by State and Territory Parliaments

Contents of Parliamentary apologies Additional information

Australian Capital Territory

 

17 June 1997
Mrs Kate Carnell, Chief Minister


"I move that this assembly:

  1. apologises to the Ngunnawal people and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT for the hurt and distress inflicted upon and people as a result of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families;

 

Specific recognition of the traditional owners of the land on which Parliament resides; emphasis of "the hurt and distress inflicted"
  1. assures the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Territory that the Assembly regards the past practices of forced separation as abhorrent and expresses our sincere determination that they will not happen in the ACT;

 

Recognises ‘abhorrence’ of past practices and commitment to preventing their recurrence in the future.
  1. affirms its commitment to a just and proper outcome for both the grievances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people adversely affected by those policies and the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report
"Commitment to a just and proper outcome" for Indigenous people; and the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report.
  1. acknowledges that the Government is negotiating a Regional Agreement with the Ngunnawal people in relation to the Ngunnawal Native Title Claim in the ACT; and
 
  1. by this resolution seeks to take an important step in the healing process which is fundamental to reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the non-Indigenous members of the ACT community."
Recognises the importance of an apology to the process of reconciliation as a healing process.
Motion carried in the affirmative In the speech that followed Mrs Carnell went on to highlight:
  • the devastating impact of European settlement on local Aboriginal communities;
  • the need to remember and raise greater awareness of the past in order to undertake the reconciliation process;
  • the call for reparation, acknowledgement and apology in the Bringing Them Home Report

New South Wales

 

18 June 1997
The Hon Bob Carr, Premier


"I move:
That this House, on behalf of the people of NSW –

 

Speaking as a representative of the people of NSW
  1. apologises unreservedly to the Aboriginal people of Australia for the systematic separation of generations of Aboriginal children from their parents, families and communities;

 

"Apologises unreservedly"
  1. acknowledges and regrets Parliament’s role in enacting laws and endorsing policies of successive governments whereby profound grief and loss have been inflicted upon Aboriginal Australians;

 


Recognises the role of past governments "in enacting laws and endorsing policies" which caused "profound loss and grief"
  1. calls upon all Australian Governments to respond with compassion, understanding and justice to the report of the HREOC entitled Bringing Them Home;

 

Urges for compassion, understanding and justice in acting on the recommendations of Bringing Them Home
  1. reaffirms its commitment to the goals and processes of reconciliation in NSW and throughout Australia."

 

Highlights a commitment to reconciliation
Motion carried without dissent

Further comments in speech:

  • Reiterates the crucial role of past governments in causing the stolen generations by supporting corrupt laws and attitudes.
  • Recognises the ongoing grief, suffering and humiliation inflicted by such laws.
  • Confirms that he speaks on behalf of the Government and people of NSW
  • Supports the recognition of Aboriginal dispossession as well as the positive achievements of the pioneer generations – co-existing themes in Australian history – but acknowledges that dispossession is an ongoing legacy for Indigenous Australians.
  • Apology is recognition of wrongs and acceptance of responsibility, to end the denial of truth and history.
  • Pursuing the achievement of justice, equality and respect

South Australia

 

28 May 1997
The Hon. Dean Brown, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs


"I move:
That the South Australian Parliament expresses its deep and sincere regret at the forced separation of some Aboriginal children from their families and homes which occurred prior to 1964, apologises to these Aboriginal people for these past actions and reaffirms its support for reconciliation between all Australians."

  • - "Expresses its deep and sincere regret"
  • - Apologises for past actions
  • - Reaffirms support for reconciliation

Motion carried in the affirmative

Further comments:
  • Reconciliation is about the future of Australia
  • Speaks on behalf of the people of South Australia
  • Recognises the pain and devastation caused by policies aimed largely at assimilation, the need to raise awareness and understanding, and to take action.
  • Reminds of the obligation and responsibility of government to legislate with equity and compassion

Tasmania

 

13 August 1997
Mr. Tony Rundle, Premier


"The motion before the House this afternoon is –
That this Parliament, on behalf of all Tasmanians, expresses its deep and sincere regrets at the hurt and distress caused by past policies under which Aboriginal children were removed from their families and homes, apologises to the Aboriginal people for those past actions and reaffirms its support for reconciliation between all Australians."


Motion carried without dissent


  • - Speaking on behalf of all Tasmanians
  • - "Deep and sincere regret"
  • - "hurt and distress caused by past policies"
  • - Apologises for past actions
  • - Reaffirms support for reconciliation

Victoria

 

17 September 1997
Mr. Jeff Kennett, Premier


"I move:
That this house apologises to Aboriginal people on behalf of all Victorians for the past policies under which Aboriginal children were removed from their families and expresses deep regret at the hurt and distress that this has caused and reaffirms its support for reconciliation."


  • - Apologises for past policies
  • - Speaks on behalf of all Victorians
  • - "Expresses deep regret at the hurt and distress"
  • - Reaffirms support for reconciliation
Motion carried without dissent Further comments:
  • Reminder that this did not occur in the distant past, but during our lifetime and in this state.
  • Commitment to redressing these disadvantages in partnership with the Aboriginal people.
  • Expresses disgust at past practices, acknowledges that today they would be unacceptable
  • Committed to working with Aboriginal communities to deliver programs to address their undoubted disadvantage ... [and] assisting Aboriginal communities to become economically sustainable and reach a point where they are no longer overwhelmingly dependent on government support.
  • Expresses personal sorrow and apology

Western Australia

 

27 May 1997
Dr. Geoff Gallop, Leader of the Opposition
(motion supported by Premier, Richard Court)


"I move:
That this House apologises to the Aboriginal people on behalf of all Western Australians for the past policies under which Aboriginal children were removed from their families and expresses deep regret at the hurt and distress this has caused."

  • - Apologises on behalf of all Western Australians
  • - "Expresses deep regret at the hurt and distress"

Motion carried without dissent

Further comments by the Hon. Richard Court, Premier:
  • Acceptance that policies of past governments have caused a great deal of pain for several generations of Indigenous Australians
  • Comments on complexity of issues of compensation
  • Acknowledges the trauma caused by past policies however well intended they might have been at the time
Premier Court "It is appropriate that this House show respect for Aboriginal families that have been forcibly separated as a consequence of government policy in the past, by observing a period of silence." (Members stood for one minute silence)

Queensland

 

26 May 1999
Mr. Peter Beattie, Premier


"I move:
That this House apologises to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland on behalf of all Queenslanders for the past policies under which indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and expresses deep sorrow and regret at the hurt and distress that this caused.

  • - Apologises
  • - Speaks on behalf of all Queenslanders
  • - "Expresses deep sorrow and regret at the hurt and distress"

This House recognises the critical importance to indigenous Australians and the wider community of a continuing reconciliation process, based on an understanding of, and frank apologies for, what has gone wrong in the past and total commitment to equal respect in the future."


Motion carried in the affirmative

Acknowledges the importance of a reconciliation based on understanding and frank apologies, and a commitment to equal respect in the future.

Federal

 

26 August, 1999


Mr John Howard, Prime Minister

 
  1. reaffirms its whole-hearted commitment to the cause of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians;
Commitment to reconciliation
  1. recognising the achievements of the Australian nation, commits to work together to strengthen the bonds that unite us, to respect and appreciate our difference, and to build a fair and prosperous future in which we can all share;
Commitment to work together in unity, respect for difference to build a prosperous shared future
  1. reaffirms the central importance of practical measures leading to practical results that address the profound economic and social disadvantage which continues to be experienced by many indigenous Australians;
Importance of addressing economic and social disadvantage through practical measures
  1. recognises the importance of understanding the shared history of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and the need to acknowledge openly the wrongs and injustices of Australia’s past;
Importance of understanding the shared history or Australia, to acknowledge the injustices
  1. acknowledges that the mistreatment of many indigenous Australians over a significant period represents the most blemished chapter in our national history;
 
  1. expresses its deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices; and

"Expresses deep and sincere regret" for injustices under practices past generations, the continued hurt and trauma experienced
  1. believes that we, having achieved so much as a nation, can now move forward together, for the benefit of all Australians;
 
Mr Beazley (Leader of the Opposition) moved, as an amendment- Omit paragraph (f), substitute:  

(f) unreservedly apologises to indigenous Australians for the injustice they have suffered, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to suffer as a consequence of this injustice;

To unreservedly apologise

(fa) calls for the establishment of appropriate processes to provide justice and restitution to members of the stolen generation through consultation, conciliation and negotiation rather than requiring indigenous Australians to engage in adversarial litigation in which they are forced to relive the pain and trauma of their past suffering; and


That (g) becomes new paragraph (h).


These amendments were not agreed to


Motion carried without dissent

Calls for justice and restitution through consultation, conciliation, and negotiation.

Northern Territory

 
24 October 2001
Ms. Claire Martin, Chief Minister
"I move that this assembly:
 

  • (a) apologises to Territorians who were removed from their families under the authority of the Commonwealth
    Aboriginals Ordinance and placed in institutional or foster care;
Apologises
  • (b) acknowledges their belief that such removals represented the implementation of a government assimilation policy without regard to individual welfare circumstances;
Recognises that assimilation policies disregarded individual welfare circumstances
  • (c) recognises the profound sense of loss and emotional trauma suffered by both the removed children and
    the communities from which they were taken, regardless of the existence or non-existence of any valid welfare reason for removal in any particular case;
Recognises the loss and trauma that has resulted
  • (d) recognises that in the great majority of cases the removed children received inadequate care, guidance, and education, and that the Commonwealth government of the day failed in its obligation to facilitate reunions between the removed children and their Aboriginal communities once any purported welfare objective had been achieved; and
Recognises the poor treatment of children removed from their families, that the government failed to reunite children with their communities after welfare objective had been achieved
  • (e) calls upon the Commonwealth government to make a formal and specific apology to all those persons removed pursuant to the Aboriginals Ordinance, acknowledging that the Commonwealth failed in discharging its moral obligations towards them."

Motion carried in the affirmative

Calls on the Federal Government to make a formal apology
 

Further comments:

Ms Martin then recalls the comments she made in the NT Assembly back in 1998:

When I see how the policies of federal and state governments throughout the country have impacted on a group of people, simply because they were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, and what that has done to a generation of Aboriginal people, I want to say sorry. I am not personally guilty....but as a proud Australian, I think the least we can do is apologise. That does not mean that I am personally guilty or my children are personally guilty or my parents are personally guilty or that, as members of parliament, we are personally guilty... I think the least we can do is to say sorry as a symbolic and honest gesture, as a gesture for the past and in some cases for our generation, is certainly the least we can do.

Chief Minister Shane Stone 18th February 1998

Amendment proposal to apology motion by Opposition leader (Mrs Hickey)
1

It is not our intention to vote against the motion proposed by the opposition, but rather to amend it. Madam Speaker, I move that the motion be amended by omitting all words after `that this Assembly' and inserting the following in their stead:

(1) endorses the actions of the CLP government in supporting and continuing to provide support to Aboriginal Territorians, particularly those who were adversely affected by the previous policies and practices of Commonwealth governments under which mixed-race children were separated from their mothers and families;

 

(2) notes that the CLP government of the Northern Territory has led the way for all Australian governments by contributing substantial funds to the `Coming Home' conference in Darwin in September 1994, assisting the Stolen Generations reference group to make its submission to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's inquiry and establishing a protocol to access relevant records held by the Northern Territory government to facilitate family unification;

 
(3) recognises the valuable contribution made by the victims of this Commonwealth policy in later life to the social, economic and political development of the Northern Territory; and  
(4) acknowledges the personal trauma which inevitably resulted from such a policy, but affirms that positive and material support for the victims and their families is more beneficial than the empty-apology option taken by a number of parliaments in the Australian states.
 
Motion as amended agreed to  

1 This is part of the parliamentary debate on the issue of an apology to Aboriginal members of the Stolen Generation, where the original motion was put by Labor Opposition Leader Maggie Hickey on 18 February 1998, available online

 

Last updated March 20, 2008