This essay will assess the Australian governments efforts towards reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, particularly the apology to the Stolen Generations and the Close the Gap campaign.

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Rights and freedom essay

“Reconciliation will not work if it puts a higher value on symbolic gestures rather than the practical needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in areas like health, housing, education and employment.” Warren Mundine AO. I agree with this quote because practical actions that address Indigenous disadvantage are overlooked in favour of symbolic gestures. This essay will assess the Australian government’s efforts towards reconciliation, particularly the apology to the Stolen Generations and the Close the Gap campaign.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the Stolen Generations on 13th February 2008, which marked the first day of the Australia’s 42nd Parliament. This was a recommendation from The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal Children from their Families, which suggested that “all Australian Parliaments and State and Territory police forces acknowledge responsibility for past laws, policies and practices of forcible removal and that on behalf of their predecessors officially apologies to Indigenous individuals, families and communities.” (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, n.d) Between 1910-1970, Indigenous children were taken from their parents as part of the Stolen Generations. They were adopted by white families and forced to reject their heritage and adopt white culture, by changing their names and forbidding them to speak their traditional language. This left a legacy of trauma and loss over many generations that continues to affect Indigenous communities, families and individuals today. (, n.d.)

There were mixed emotions within the Indigenous community in response to the speech. Some felt it provided much needed closure and it marked the beginning of a journey of healing and reconciliation: “Sorry may just be a word, but it should help the history of our past come back into our curriculum for the current generation to learn. An apology will mean a monumental weight has been lifted from people's shoulders.” - Sudye Jackson, retired Aboriginal footballer. “I feel great. I'm on top of the world, I'm floating on air. It's a big weight off my shoulders... It's the closure I need.” – Archie Roach, Aboriginal singer and member of the Stolen Generations. Yet, some felt it was redundant and wanted practical actions to address Indigenous issues instead: “The word 'sorry' doesn't come near what [my father] went through. They can apologise in a thousand different ways without saying sorry. Actions speak louder than words.” - Norman Stewart, son of a Stolen Generations member. (Gibson, 2008) “Blackfellas will get the words, the whitefellas will keep the money.” – Noel Pearson, Aboriginal elder. (Korff, 2019)

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Tom Calma, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, responded to the apology on the same day. He said, “By acknowledging and paying respect, Parliament has now laid the foundations for healing to take place and for a reconciled Australia in which everyone belongs.” He noted this should the first step in a partnership and more steps should be taken to implement recommendations of the Bringing them home report and accommodate the needs of the Stolen Generations. He said there has been little attempt to consider these recommendations and he urged the government representatives to address this.

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