Moree community celebrates 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd's national apology to indigenous peoples but says change needs to happen

Members of the Moree community have called for significant change in the treatment of Aboriginal families, ten years on from Kevin Rudd’s historic National Apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples.

More than 30 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people gathered at Pius X Aboriginal Corporation on Tuesday, February 13 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the National Apology.

Whilst the day was a celebration of the 2008 government’s recognition of the pain and suffering caused to the Stolen Generations and their descendents, it was also a time to reflect on what has been achieved since and how much more needs to be done to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

“It’s a very momentous occasion, the 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s Apology,” Pius X board member Jessica Duncan said.

“It’s a celebration of 10 years since the Apology, something that so many of us fought to achieve, to receive that recognition of the struggle, to receive the recognition of the trauma and what was done to this generation, but at the same time there’s a lot of sense of disquiet, a sense that not enough has been done, a sense that there’s still so much to be done and a sense that we’re going backwards.

“It has been 10 years, we can celebrate that today but I think we should also celebrate that there’s another 10 years to go and even more going forward.

“I’d like to thank our elders for the achievement that we have here today, that is their hard work, and also celebrate the 10 years to come, the hard work that we have. And I’d really like to celebrate our youth who will get us there for the next 10 years.”

Moree elder Mary Swan – who was celebrating her 80th birthday – said saying sorry is not enough to right the wrongs of the past.

“I’ve seen a lot of governments come and go and a lot of policies come and go but what I haven’t seen is the change in the treatment of our Aboriginal families by the welfare and protection boards through to the DOCS and FACS of present times,” she said.

“Today we celebrate the word sorry.

“This is important but we must not forget that there needs to be change – a change that values our people and our culture.

“Sorry also has to include actions and change.

“So let’s all stand together with pride in our Aboriginality and say we accept your apology but just saying the word is not enough. Live up to your promise of sorry Mr Rudd, commit to changing the wrongs of the past and what’s happening now.”

Moree Plains Shire Council’s Mitchell Johnson echoed similar sentiments and said while the day is important to remember, more needs to be done.

“It’s good that school kids are here, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

“The younger generation need to know the full history of Australia and our community to progress forward.

“As a whole, the national apology is linked to Close the Gap and from that perspective, not much has changed.

“But it’s still important that the government did acknowledge and make a statement about what happened.

“While the acknowledgement had to happen, it can’t just be a word and that’s it. You have to keep making changes.”

Following talks by the guest speakers and the listening of Kevin Rudd’s 2008 Apology, elder Eileen Cain and Moree East Public School captain Luke Annis-Brown had the honour of raising the Aboriginal flag.

Moree Secondary College student Lamonay Brown sang during the flag-raising.

The official part of the celebrations were followed by a morning tea, at which elders Eileen Cain and Mary Swan cut the National Apology Day cake.

On the first anniversary of National Apology Day, Pius X Aboriginal Corporation opened their Sorry Garden called Maaruma-Li Walaay-Ba – meaning ‘healing place’ – as a peaceful place to gather and be safe.

Program officer Ray Dennison said it’s great to see how the day has progressed since they first began holding National Apology Day celebrations.

“I’m really pleased with the turn-out,” he said.