14th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation
Parliamentary speech, 14th of February 2022, by Craig Crawford.

"Each year, on this date, we are reminded of our Nation’s greatest shame and our greatest regret- the forced removal of First Nations people - the Stolen Generation. 

 

As the 1997 Bringing Them Home report found:

For individuals, their removal as children and the abuse they experienced at the hands of the authorities or their delegates have permanently scarred their lives. The harm continues in later generations, affecting their children and grandchildren.

25 years on from the Bringing them Home Report, and 14 years on from the National Apology, this statement rings ever true today.
 

As I reflect on the lasting devastation and intergenerational trauma experienced by mothers, fathers and children of the stolen generation, who’s connection to family, land, culture and language was stripped, I am overwhelmed with the sense that more needs to be done.

That as Government, we must do better.
 

Making 54 recommendations, the Bringing them Home Report called for an official acknowledgement of, and apology for the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

 

As we know, the National Apology was delivered 14 years ago by the Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

 

As that speech was delivered, the nation stood still and listened. I recall seeing the wave of emotion that swept over First Nations people across the country.

 

Those who had always been seen and systematically treated as  ‘less than’ and those whose children were taken away, were finally acknowledged as equal. Their pain and suffering finally validated.

 

And as that speech was made, many non-Indigenous Australians, some for the first time, sat up, listened to, recognized, and empathized, the ongoing suffering experienced by First nations people.

 

Shifting the mindset across the nation, the National Apology was a turning point.

 

14 years have passed since that apology, and as Queensland’s Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships I echo the words of the former Prime Minister.

 

Like all states, Queensland has a dark past. Former Governments legislated, in the most egregious way, policies that de-humanized First Nation peoples.

 

One piece of legislation – The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897- allowed the Queensland Government to take thousands of your forebears from their traditional lands, and with no regard, virtually imprison them in our own equivalent of 16 gulags across the state.  

 

While the National Apology pushed States to hold up the mirror to its own wrong doings and helped shift minds and hearts across the nation, what we need now more than ever is for the National Apology to be demonstrated through persistent and radical action.

 

In March 2019, the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, setting out a new relationship between all Australian Governments, the Coalition of peaks and Australia Local Government Association, was signed.
 

As the nation commits to focusing on four Priority Reform areas, and achieving 17 national targets, we are more united than ever, and are taking real action to reach the targets set.

Reflected in the Queensland Governments Implementation Plan, across Government, Ministers and Agencies are working to ensure the targets are on track.
 

We know that to achieve the targets set a new relationship needs to be established. That’s why the Palaszczuk Government made its ‘Statement of Commitment’, committing to reframing its relationship with First Nations Queenslanders through Local Thriving Communities and Path to Treaty.

 

Enabling greater self-determination through our Local Thriving Communities agenda, we are facilitating greater participation in decision making for Queensland’s Indigenous communities because we know they are best placed to make decisions about what is needed to build their communities, and on the service delivery that impacts them.

 

And at the heart of a reframed relationship is also the need for truth, reconciliation, and reparation. This forms the basis of Queensland’s Path to Treaty.

 

In the coming weeks, the Queensland Governments response to the Treaty Advancement Committee’s report will be released, setting out the next steps for truth telling, healing and treaty making.  

 

Truth telling is the basis of which treaties can be negotiated, because we know that the devastation of the past cannot be addressed without the whole community listening with an open mind and heart.

Integral to truth telling is the work of Link-Up, who have been supporting disconnected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since 1984, and will continue to play an essential role in connecting people back to their family, culture, and truth; providing space for those who have suffered to have a voice and to tell their stories, and to enable those impacted directly, and our State and Nation to begin to heal.

 

In closing, I want to express my gratitude to Link-Up for your care, compassion, and incredible efforts in reuniting families.

 

I thank community leaders and Elders, some who are here today, who don’t stop fighting - for justice - for equality - and who keep Government accountable.

 

Lastly, I want to recognise, that despite the atrocious acts of past Governments, First Nations peoples remain proud, resilient, and strong.

 

This is a testament to the intangible and indescribable strength that lies within your culture and spirit- a strength and culture the rest of us can learn from.

 

As Government, it is our job now to support First Nations peoples to share that culture, strength and resilience with the rest of Queensland.

 

I look forward to continuing to partner with First Nations peoples as we work towards closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and creating a brighter future for future First Nations generations."  

Craig's Ministerial Media Statement; 'Queenslanders reflect on the past to mark 14th Anniversary of the National Apology' can be found here.