On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd publically apologised, on behalf of the Federal Government, to the Stolen Generations – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities by successive colonial and Australian governments.
The Stolen Generations refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities as children. From the early 1800s to the mid-1900s, a series of government policies enabled the removal of many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their homes and communities. They were sent to children’s homes and training institutions and/or were fostered or adopted (usually by non-Indigenous families). In addition to the trauma of being forcibly removed from their families and communities, many children suffered significant physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse from those who were supposed to be ‘caring’ for them. The trauma of these experiences continues to impact many members of the Stolen Generations and their families today.
The apology was a significant milestone for Australia’s Indigenous peoples as it was the first time that the government formally acknowledged the mistreatment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were forced to endure under successive colonial, Commonwealth, State and territory ‘protection’ and ‘welfare’ laws and policies. At the time of the apology, the government also committed to decreasing social inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through the Closing the Gap initiative.