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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