Australia marks National Sorry Day every 26 May.
Contrary to Anzac Day, which celebrates the heroism of Australian and New Zealand troops fighting overseas, Sorry Day is an occasion for solemn commemoration of their mistreatment of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders across the nation’s history.
Begun as a national day of mourning in 1998 for the Stolen Generation — those kids of native people forcibly separated from their families by national, state and church authorities between 1905 and 1967 — the date has been picked to remember the Bringing Them Home report being tabled in Parliament in 1997.
The recent survey, carried out by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, documents a dark episode in Australian history, showing the devastating details of the lives of these obtained from their mothers and raised in orphanages and foster homes by whites in a misguided effort to better assimilate them within Australian society. Many were beaten, raped and abused by their planned guards, frequently in remote areas like the Northern Territory.
The day also serves as a way of apologising to the Outback’s native people because of its brutal treatment they had been exposed to by colonial forces in the 19th century, when many were viciously hunted and slaughtered on the racist premise that their”stone age” culture had no place in the New World.
The prejudices of the past haven’t entirely gone away, however. Conservative prime minister John Howard, in office at the time of this report’s publication, dismissed judge Sir Ronald Wilson’s call for a formal apology to be issued, resisted the notion that Aborigines had been the victims of genocide and whined an”Aboriginal guilt sector”, a mindset still shared with some, normally in rural parts.
His successor Kevin Rudd did create a historic apology to the Aborigines in Perth on 13 February 2008, saying accountable for the state’s having”inflicted profound grief, loss and suffering on these our fellow Australians”. He vowed to close the gap between black and white Australians in”life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity”.
Oxfam points out that Aborigines and Torres Stait Islanders are still living 10 to 17 years less than white Australians, have an infant mortality rate double that of their peers and are more likely to die of preventable diseases of the heart and kidney and also to suffer diabetes, so there’s still plenty of work to be done.
The day was formally renamed the National Day of Healing (though it’s still colloquially known as Sorry Day) by the National Sorry Day Committee in 2005 and is indicated by ceremonies, marches and speeches throughout the nation celebrating Aboriginal culture and art and talking the harrowing experiences of the Stolen Generation.
In 2000, over 250,000 people took part from the Bridge Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation.
The Healing Foundation, set up by the human rights organisation Reconciliation Australia, has also been demonstrated to work with members of the Stolen Generation on coming to terms with their past treatment and reconnecting with lost relatives.