At least 100,000 children were separated, were removed from their families, from their parents in the period between approximately 1905 and 1967.
Aboriginal children were removed over six decades. Removed children were, in most cases, placed into institutional facilities operated by religious or charitable organisations.
Children were trained to be assimilated to Anglo-Australian culture. Policies included punishment for speaking their local indigenous languages.
A common aspect of the removals was the failure by these institutions to keep records of the actual parentage of the child, or such details as the date or place of birth. The children were taken into care purportedly to protect them from neglect and abuse.
However, 17% of female witnesses and 7.7% of male witnesses reported having suffered a sexual assault while in an institution, at work, or while living with a foster or adoptive family.
Removed Aboriginal people were less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record, and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs as were Aboriginal people who grew up in their ethnic community.
On 26 May 1998, the first ‘National Sorry Day’ was held; reconciliation events were held nationally, and attended by a total of more than one million people.
That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.