The Walk of Awareness is held each year in Port Adelaide to commemorate the Apology made to the Stolen Generations by then-Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in 2008. Attendees walk together across Birkenhead Bridge to the southern side towards Hart’s Mill to take part in a Smoking Ceremony, story telling and a shared lunch. Below is an excerpt from the speech shared at the Walk by SJYS Aboriginal Cultural Broker and Chair of the Port Adelaide Enfield Aboriginal Advisory Council, Alex Houthuysen (Hill).
2021 marks the 13th year since Kevin Rudd spoke to all the survivors of the Stolen generation with his ‘We say sorry’ speech.
As a Stolen Generations Survivor, I still hear horrendous stories of forcibly removed children taken from their families, being institutionalised, and leaving a legacy of trauma and loss that continues to affect communities, families and individuals. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who from the Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.
On February 13th 2008, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, issued a national apology to the Indigenous people of Australia; an apology that no other Prime Minister before him was prepared to make.
The Sorry Day speech was a turning point in Australia’s history, a small step forward in addressing and acknowledging the trauma and heartache caused to First Nations communities for the stolen generations. However no speech, no matter how eloquent, can heal the mammoth problems caused by the years of dispossession, colonisation and subjugation of our First Nations people.
As First Nations communities across this ancient land, we need to work as one to right the wrongs of our past and continue to look positively to the future. We are not just talking here of the brutality of a time gone by, although it was certainly a shameful and shocking reality. We are talking about the present, and how the legacy of the past lives on for every single First Nations person and their families. We cannot move forward until the legacies of the past are properly dealt with, and we must continue to strongly advocate for change. No one can steal that right as we acknowledge the truth of our tragic history, seeking justice, seeking change, and allowing the process of healing to occur. As First Nations people we cannot let our guard down and we must continue to challenge governments to stand up and continue working to ensure our children do not lose their connection to Country, their people and community, and to stand proudly as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
Reconciliation represents a spirit of goodwill, mutual respect and recognition of the effects of colonisation on Australia’s first peoples. We all need to work together to improve our quality of life as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly in the key areas for achieving equity for all South Australians including housing, health, education and employment.
As we stand here today as an Aboriginal Nation, each of us can make a difference not only today but every day, striving as an Aboriginal Nation and an Aboriginal voice. It’s one thing to listen, it’s another to act – and it’s the willingness to do something to ensure our cultural capability continues to respond more effectively to the needs of our community.