National Sorry Day

First People Then And Now


Sorry Day


Sorry Day in Australia is 26 May. This year the 2017 Sorry Day marks two decades since The Bringing Them Home Report from tabled.


The Bringing Them Home report  which was the result of the enquiry into the Stolen Generation concluded that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken away from their families and communities by government officials, missionaries and welfare bodies in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970.

This Report found that the many Indigenous Australian children who were removed from the families and communities were denied access to their past lives and had to take on new ways of living that were foreign and alien to the way they were originally brought up.

The stolen children were educated in the Anglo-European system and were forbidden and punished if they tried to adhere to traditional ways.

They had to leave behind their language, values and lifestyle and many of these children never saw their families again.

The Bringing Them Home Report also found that these children were subject to different kinds of abuse.


First People Then And Now

Protectionist legislation


In 1869 the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines was set up. The other states followed the Victorians – New South Wales (1883), Queensland (1897), Western Australia (1905) and South Australia (1911).

The colonial governments believed Indigenous Australians were a dying race so they introduced legislation designed to protect them. It was very controlling.

The colonial governments started controlling the lives of Indigenous people saying where and how they should live.  

The protectionist laws meant government authorities, like a Chief Protector or Protection Board, had extensive powers to control the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Missionaries set up mission stations in different parts of the continent to Christianise Aboriginal people and to educate them in white values.

Government officials and missionaries could remove children from their families and place them in reformatory or industrial schools and have them live in dormitories.

These protectionist policies continued into the early twentieth century, the Anglo-Europeans believing that the Aboriginal race would eventually die out. 

The protectionist legislation led to the adoption of the Assimilation policy 1937-1965. 

Underlying this policy that aimed at educating Aboriginal children into white ways and values was a sinister belief that the ‘Aboriginal problem’ could be solved if the Aboriginal race could be bred out by Europeanising them and having people of Aboriginal descent marry white people. Eventually in a few generations the Aboriginal race could be eliminated.

Under the assimilation policy children’s knowledge of their families, language and culture was suppressed and in many places it was enforced brutally.

In 2008 on 13 February when Prime Minister Rudd addressed the Australian Parliament he apologised for the the successive government’s treatment of Australia’s Indigenous people for having inflicted such grief, suffering and loss and for the pain and grief that was caused over many generations.


Sorry Day


On the 26 May each year now there is an Australia wide observance of National Sorry Day.

National Sorry Day is an opportunity for all Australians to come together and share the process towards healing. This is healing for the Stolen Generations their families and communities and for the Australian nation as a whole.

Sorry Day is a day of remembrance. It is a day to remember and acknowledge the Stolen Generations, their families, and their communities.

In 1998 on 26 May the first National Sorry Day was held. This was a year following the publication of the Bringing Them Home Report.

Not only was it an acknowledgement of the Stolen Generations but it was acknowledged that those responsible for this dark and blemished chapter of Australian history were the former Australian governments, welfare bodies and the missionaries.




First People Then And Now

Marji Hill

Author First People Then And Now