National Sorry Day 2019: Healing Together

What is National Sorry Day?

National Sorry Day is an annual event that has been held in Australia on 26 May, since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country’s Aboriginal People. During the 20th century, Australian government policies resulted in a “Stolen Generation“, described by John Torpey as “Aboriginal children separated, often forcibly, from their families in the interest of turning them into white Australians”

On 26 May 1997, the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament. The date 26 May carries great significance for the Stolen Generations, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and its supporters among non-indigenous Australians.

Sorry Day came about after the findings of the “Bringing Them Home” report came to fruition – it detailed the gross misconduct and injustices of the past. The report documented about the forcible removal and abduction of Indigenous children, this was a widespread practice in Australia throughout the twentieth century due to assimilation policies adopted by the government. Mainstream recognition and acknowledgement of the horrendous experiences of the Indigenous children and their families have only recently been made relevant. The report highlighted that Australia’s First People need to be honoured and the Stolen Generation be remembered.

National Sorry Day or National Apology Day is an observance-type holiday, though it is not a federal public holiday.

How Your Early Learning Centre can recognise National Sorry Day?

Some activities or events that you could do in your early learning centre to acknowledge the day are:

  • Concerts and barbecues at your centre
  • Reconciliation walks and marches on the streets – or replicate this within your area
  • Flag raising events
  • Teas and lunches to acknowledge the day and invite families and community into the centre
  • Speeches and statements from community leaders (indigenous Australian elders, educators, politicians, government officials) can be viewed on tech devices.

People also write messages in “sorry books” to show their commitment towards reconciliation. “Sorry books” have been part of National Sorry Day celebrations since 1998.

Some primary and high schools also have essay writing competitions and candle lighting events for the Stolen Generations who were taken away from their families and communities.

National Sorry Day is important because we need to keep educating Australians, especially the younger generations, on how Sorry Day came about or how it started. As it is a way to show respect to the country’s history. It is important for young children especially, to know facts about Sorry Day, how that type of injustice was even allowed and how it is also very wrong and should not be continued on.

The suffering and loss experienced by the Stolen Generation cannot be taken back, but it can be amended. The point of Sorry Day is for Australians to show empathy to those affected for the crimes committed against them. Australians can do their part in observing Sorry Day by participating in the different activities planned and acknowledging the traditional owners of the land in their daily practices.

Ensure that you lead the way as early childhood educators and early learning centres. Being a part of Sorry Day is part of the healing process. As Australians, we can all grow and mend together – one day at a time – all on the same path.