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Uniting Church of Australia welcomes apology to Stolen Generations

The Uniting Church of Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) have congratulated Australia’s federal government for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s formal apology to members of the Stolen Generations.

Members of the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress were among the thousands who gathered in Adelaide's Elder Park to watch the live telecast of Prime Minister Keven Rudd's apology to indigenous Australians. Photo courtesy of the New Times newspaper.

In his February 13th speech Kevin apologised for the pain, suffering and hurt of the Stolen Generations, their descendants, and their families left behind, referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.

The Uniting Church made its own formal apology to Australia’s indigenous people more than a decade ago.

Uniting Church President Rev Gregor Henderson says the Christian view of confession is that it recognises wrongdoing.

“We take confession to mean that what has been done is not in accordance with the hopes and possibilities that God has for us,” Gregor says.

“Confession is both an acknowledgement of this and an expression of resolve to live, by the grace of God, differently in the future.

“Our partnership and covenanting agreement with the UAICC is one way in which we have demonstrated our resolve to walk alongside our Aboriginal and Islander brothers and sisters; to seek forgiveness and reparations.

“The Government’s apology to the Stolen Generation marks the beginning of a sense of renewal and we hope it will be backed up with practical measures for better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

The UAICC says the significance of the Government’s apology will be measured by practical outcomes.

UAICC national administrator Rev Shayne Blackman hopes it will result in healing and greater collaboration in working to end the disadvantage experienced by Indigenous people.

“We believe that true repentance involves both an apology and a change of attitude,” Shayne says.

“We hope the Government takes further action to clearly demonstrate its commitment to the apology, such as tailored Indigenous programs and opportunities for socio-economic equality. As a first step, the apology is an historic moment for Australia. We also hope to see a framework put in place, following the lead of countries like Canada and New Zealand, where rights-based approaches have been successfully implemented.

Shayne says the word ‘sorry’ holds special significance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. It goes beyond admitting wrongdoing to helping restore respect, healing and a commitment to doing things differently in the future.

“An apology from the Government for the mistakes of the past is an important symbolic step towards building bridges toward equality and understanding. However these need to be built upon policies and programs that will truly restore equality to the lives of Aboriginal and Islander people.

“The reality of Australia’s stolen generation is not a thing of the distant past. Up until 1969 Indigenous children were still being removed from their parents by the Government and their collaborators.

“This has meant for many, a complete loss of connection to family, traditional culture, identity and language which has resulted in life-long disabling consequences such as psychological trauma, depression and emotional suffering.”

Shayne says the fallout from this dire legacy has contributed to appalling facts such as the 17 year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and affirms the need to work collaboratively to restore equality, healing and justice to Australia’s first people.

“There can be no better expression of an apology for the mistakes of the past than a commitment to programs and policies that truly deliver on our lifelong hopes and dreams for the future,” he says.