The City of Ballarat marked the 16th anniversary of the National Apology to Stolen Generations Survivors with a ceremony at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, where those in attendance were invited to take part in a yarning circle.
Guided by the Koorie Engagement Action Group (KEAG) Advisory Committee, the ceremony commemorated 13 February 2008 when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations who were removed as children from their families and their culture.
Ballarat Aboriginal Elder and Stolen Generations survivor Uncle Murray Harrison, who travelled to Canberra to hear the apology in person in 2008, spoke at the event to reflect on the significance of the formal apology in his own healing.
The ceremony at the Art Gallery of Ballarat also featured a Wadawurrung Smoking Ceremony, a minute’s silence, a viewing of the 2008 apology, a Q&A with audience members and a Yarning Circle – a conversation with Stolen Generations members and families, student leaders, audience members and staff from organisations including the the City of Ballarat, BADAC, CAFS, DEECA and the Department of Education and Training.
City of Ballarat Deputy Mayor, Cr Peter Eddy said it was crucial that as a city we commemorated and acknowledged the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needed to be done to address the impacts of past policies.
“We understand that there are very few First Nations families who have not been impacted – we know that in some families children from three or more generations were taken,” Cr Eddy said.
“The removal of children broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties and has left a lasting and intergenerational impact on the lives and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here in Ballarat and across Australia.
“To hear people like Uncle Murray share their stories is extremely powerful in showing why we must always continue to remember and learn from the past.
“First Nations’ peoples are such an important part of Ballarat and it’s important we continue to acknowledge the errors of the past so we can continue to move forward together.”
The City of Ballarat is currently developing its next Reconciliation Action Plan, which will aim to promote better outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the areas where Council has influence.