In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the Stolen Generations for Australia’s policies of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their parents. But the work of restoration is far from over. Community action resulted in the Apology in 2008; today, we urgently need to rebuild relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians at every level for our joint healing as a whole and healthy society.
In the lead-up to Reconciliation Week in Australia, IofC Australia held our Bi-Annual National Gathering, culminating in a 24 May event with First Nations community leaders on the question: ‘How can we all be agents of change in the unfinished apology to our stolen generations?’
Becoming Agents of Change
First Nations leaders, Pastor Ray Minniecon, Heather Shearer and Dr Paul Gray, with author John Bond, explored themes emerging from the new book co-authored by Brian Butler and John Bond, Sorry and Beyond: Healing the Stolen Generations.
The panel event was organised by ‘Our Uluru Response’, IofC Australia’s trustbuilding project to build respectful relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities through truth telling and truth hearing as a basis for walking together in partnership for justice and healing.
Introducing the speakers, co-hosts Mike Brown and Sarah Naarden of the OUR project welcomed the panel perspectives on how the cycles of inter-generational trauma can be broken, and relationships of trust and integrity built.
Pastor Ray Minniecon, of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent, previously led World Vision Australia's Indigenous programs. He is currently a community pastor with St John’s Anglican Church, Glebe. He is also a Director of Bunji Consultancies, which supports Aboriginal leadership and business initiatives with corporate clients.
A Stolen Generation survivor, Heather Shearer became Secretary of the South Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency in 1978, and helped establish Aboriginal foster care in SA. She has worked all her life in state and national bodies for Aboriginal children's care and protection, currently managing the Central Australian Stolen Generations and Families Aboriginal Corporation in Alice Springs.
John Bond served as Secretary of the National Sorry Day committee, on the frontline of the movement which for more than ten years campaigned for the Australian government to make an official apology to the Aboriginal people. He now lives in Oxford, where he continues to work for peace and justice through participation in Initiatives of Change and the Balfour Project.
Dr Paul Gray is a Wiradjuri man from NSW and an Associate Professor at the University of Technology Sydney's Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research. His work focuses on child and family welfare and wellbeing. He has worked in various policy and project roles in child protection with the NSW state government.
Hear the panelists
Sorry and Beyond tells the story of the grassroots movement that resulted in nearly a million non-Indigenous Australians joining the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk in 1998 and the subsequent Journey of Healing campaigns for a national Apology. The book was launched during Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June). Get it from the AIATSIS bookshop here.
Reconciliation Australia, the independent peak body for reconciliation, marks its 20th anniversary this year. Check the website for information about how all Australians can learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. See state events here.
Through Our Uluru Response (OUR), IofC Australia continues our journey with national education forums, visits, and facilitated conversations for truth telling and truth hearing. For more information about the project, please contact the OUR project Manager, Sarah Naarden, and check the IofC Australia website for updates!