Moree celebrates 11th anniversary of Kevin Rudd's national apology

The Moree community was encouraged to look ahead to the future, 11 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 Wednesday, February 13 to celebrate the 11th 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 an opportunity to reflect on the impact still being felt to this day in our community.

“It’s something that has flow-on effects to our generations today,” Pius X board member and Hunter New England Health community mental health worker Neil Kinchela said.  

“It affects most families within the community. We’ve all experienced it in some way, shape or form. It’s something that continues to have tremendous impacts through intergenerational trauma on a lot of our community and community members.

“It’s very important that, as a nation, we recognise the significance of the apology that was made by Kevin Rudd, and at the same time show our respect and commiserations to the stolen generations.”

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Department of Family and Community Services’ Tony Slater was one of the guest speakers during the event, and shared a personal story about his great aunty Agnes Slater who was taken from her family during the time of assimilations and child removals.

“[My great aunty Agnes Slater] was removed from her family at Walhallow,” he said.

“She was one of six children, having five brothers. She was taken to Sydney and lived in a Catholic-run home.

“Aunty Ag returned home to Walhallow when she was in her 30s. By this time, her parents and her siblings had all passed away.

“Aunty Aggie did not ever speak about her time in her homes. She was a spinster until her death.

“She was articulate and always dressed in hats, gloves and beautiful dresses and jewellery.

“As a kid, I recall going up to the scrub at Caroona where she lived. I would ride from the mission over there and I would think, ‘wow, she must be very rich’, seeing her dressed and speaking the way she spoke. In those days, as a kid, I didn’t know what had taken place. I had no idea of the loss and the pain she had endured by the forced removal from her family and country.

‘She returned to country and remained on country for the rest of her life. She came home but her parents and five brothers were not there. It must have been extremely heartbreaking for her. 

“Grief has no end. It remains and lives forever. Sadly, many of our people carry the pain of the stolen generation.”

Moree Plains Shire councillor Kerry Cassells also spoke on the day, encouraging members of Moree’s Aboriginal community to not let the past hold them back from enjoying a bright future.

“150,000 aboriginal children were taken away, never to return,” she said.

“I can’t even imagine how it’s affected everybody who’s gone through the stolen generation. Don’t forget it, commemorate it, thank Kevin Rudd.

“Look to the future, be anything you want to be … don’t let anyone put you down, don’t keep yourself burdened. Don’t let the past rule and dictate who your future is. It’s a beautiful future.”

Following the speeches and the playing of Kevin Rudd’s apology, Marion Nelio and Bruce Copeland raised the Aboriginal flag before everyone enjoyed a morning tea in the hall. Attendees also painted squares of fabric, which will be sewn together to create a quilt.