Community comes together to commemorate National Apology Day anniversary

On Tuesday this week Wagga Wagga City Council held the commemoration of the anniversary of National Apology Day, 16 years since it was first delivered.

On 13 February 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who have suffered and continue to suffer the impact of trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal.

Mayor of the City of Wagga Wagga Councillor Dallas Tout says the spirit of this day is celebrated and commemorated through hearing the resilient stories of Stolen Generations survivors, but is also a day for Australians to join in on the healing journey and look to solutions for the future.

“National Apology Day is a day of reflection, healing, and reconciliation, a day when we acknowledge the injustices and pain experienced by First Nations people throughout history,” Cr Tout said.

“The delivery of the Apology is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the past wrongs inflicted on the First Nations Peoples of Australia, to express our deep remorse, and to commit to a future built on understanding, respect, and equality.

“The Apology is not just words; it is a promise to listen, learn, and work towards a better future together.

“We stand in solidarity with the local Wiradjuri and First Nations community here in Wagga Wagga, to learn from their wisdom, and to honour their resilience.”

The official proceedings commenced outside the Civic Theatre with Aunty Cheryl Penrith opening with a Welcome to Country, followed by a minute of silence and reciting of the official Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, conducted by Uncle Hewitt Whyman.

“This day, it brings back a lot of my past, and my story about my family being removed, and how it impacted on me as a young man, a teenager,” Uncle Hewitt said.

“I believe it (the Apology) was something that had to happen.”

Many of the removals of children occurred due to laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the predominately white community.

Stolen Generations survivors are some of Australia’s most vulnerable people, many of whom have kept their stories and experiences secret for decades.

“It’s amazing to see the young people out here to understand and to have knowledge of the past practices of the government of the day and removing Aboriginal children; the Apology was a long time coming,” Uncle Hewitt said.

After the reading of the Apology, Wiradjuri man Luke Wighton facilitated a Smoking Ceremony, which was followed by a traditional dance performance by a local First Nations Youth Dance Group.

Community were then invited to come into the Civic Theatre to listen to poetry and reflections by local primary and high school students.

The commemoration concluded with a free barbeque by the Wollundry Lagoon.

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