Remembering the ‘Stolen Generations’

St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, marked the 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology speech to the ‘Stolen Generations’ with their National Apology Day assembly today.

It was a powerful and pivotal moment in Australian history when, on Tuesday 13 February 2008, former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd acknowledged and apologised on behalf of the Australian Government for the tragedy of the ‘Stolen Generations’.

In honour of this first step towards reconciliation and to respectfully celebrate the 52 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students who currently attend the college, SFX held a National Apology Day assembly.

Guest speaker at the event was Mrs Judy West, a member of the stolen generation and an elder of the Worimi people. Taken from her family when she was just a baby, Judy was placed in an orphanage and later adopted by her white parents at the age of two. Growing up in Kurri Kurri, it wasn’t until 56 years later that Judy learned of her Aboriginal heritage and discovered she was a member of the ‘Stolen Generations’.

Since then she has committed herself to ensuring the community, particularly children, are aware of the importance of Aboriginal culture and have a fundamental understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal spirituality and how it impacts all Australians.

“My story is only one out of many thousands and there’s a lot of stories out there that are probably even worse than mine,” said Judy.

 “I think for me, it’s a part of my healing process when I go out to the children and tell them my story, and make sure that everyone knows about the past mistreatments and what happened.”

While Judy was thrilled by Kevin Rudd’s apology, she acknowledges that Australians still have a long way to go with the reconciliation process.

“I was overjoyed to know that at least someone had acknowledged the past mistreatment of our family. It should have happened a long time ago but I admire the man for the doing it.

“It’s lovely to come to an event like this, especially on the official 10th anniversary of National Apology Day. Having events like this and others throughout the year like Harmony Day, Sorry Day and Naidoc Week are important if we want to continue on with this journey of reconciliation.

“We need to keep acknowledging the stories of the ‘Stolen Generations’ and of Aboriginal people. We need to listen to their voices and what they have to say. Even though there’s still a long way to go, what we’ve done so far is still important,” she said.

Adorning the stage during the assembly was an Aboriginal painting by artist Richard Campbell, depicting the story of creation. Purchased by the College’s first group of Aboriginal students, the icon has appeared at all major ceremonies for the last six years and represents the connection of the school culture with Aboriginal culture.

The College is committed to educating its students in ATSI culture and ensuring they develop a knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal heritage and history.

Aboriginal Support Teacher, Frank Hales said, “The vast majority of students come here with a very limited appreciation of culture and we attempt to instil in them that appreciation and the significance of the culture to themselves as a part of our Religious Studies program. The College is also involved in a variety of connective activities with the Awabakal and Worimi people within the local region.

“An awareness of Aboriginal culture is a significant element of the reconciliation process for all Australians.”