On Feb 13 2008, shortly after being elected as Australia's 26th Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd stood up in Federal Parliament to say one important word.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry. Mr Speaker, I commend the motion to the house. Hear, hear.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry.
The apology was for the treatment of Aboriginal people over a period of 100 years up until 1969 through a policy of removing children from their parents and placing them in foster care or children's homes. This policy was mainly applied to children who had one white parent. These children are known collectively as the stolen generations.
One day the old women were told to clean us up and make us look pretty because we were going, they were taking us shopping. And, they put us on the back of the truck and one of the women must have realised what they were doing because they yelled out "oh they're taking our children, they're taking our babies, you know". So the mothers and all the aunties, they come running after the truck and we were driven away on the back of a truck. I was only two years old at the time.
For many years before Kevin Rudd's speech, Indigenous people and other Australians believed that an official government apology would help the healing.
The speech was relayed around the country to large gatherings of Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
There is still a lot of work to do in ensuring Indigenous Australians achieve equality in all aspects of their lives but many feel that the apology was a good start.