National Sorry Day (May 26th) and National Reconciliation Week (May 27th – June 3rd) are important annual observances to acknowledge past and ongoing injustice, and “to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.” Everyone has a role to play in contributing to the strengthening of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.
National Sorry Day is commemorated on May 26th each year, to acknowledge the suffering and grief experienced as a result of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities. On May 26th 1997, the ‘Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families’ was presented to Parliament. The report took evidence from 535 First Nations peoples and contains painful and sad testimonies. “We dedicate this report with thanks and admiration to those who found the strength to tell their stories to the Inquiry and to the generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people separated from their families and communities.” The observance of an annual National Sorry Day is one of several key recommendations of the national inquiry. On 13th February 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the formal National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
National Reconciliation Week (May 27th – June 3rd) follows immediately after National Sorry Day, and is a time for all Australians “to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements.” This year the National Reconciliation Week theme is ‘Be Brave. Make Change,’ and offers a challenge to all Australians “to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation.”
God of justice and forgiveness,
Guide us as we continue on our pathways to Reconciliation. Grant us the courage to speak out against the injustices that our Indigenous brothers and sisters continue to suffer. Help us to see with new eyes, to listen to the stories of our Indigenous brothers and sisters and to feel with a heart of compassion. Help us to build right relations with each other based on truth and justice. We ask this prayer through Christ our Lord, Amen.
- Prayer from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC)
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM, Peace, Ecology and Justice Office, Columban Mission Centre, Essendon