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Apology draws tears, offers hope

Seldom has a single word meant so much as when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations on February 13, saying “sorry” to families torn apart by governments that removed children from a 50,000-year-old culture and left them alone in a country rife with racism and without their traditional role models reports Joseph Correy in the South Sydney Herald of March 2008.

Many of the Stolen Generations and their families were at Redfern Community Centre to see the apology on a big screen. Redfern resident Shireen Malamoo said she was proud to hear the Prime Minister say sorry and that the next step was reparations.

“If you want to tell the truth about history then take responsibility for it,” she said. “It’s unjust that Aboriginals haven’t been compensated for what happened. It’s not that there isn’t money for it. The Government makes billions of dollars from minerals pulled out of Aboriginal land.”

Glebe resident Leila Penrith, a member of the Stolen Generations, travelled to Canberra for the apology and was moved to tears by Mr Rudd’s speech. She said those who were stolen deserved compensation.

“I was taken at six months old and moved from home to home,” she said. “At 15, I ran away and they wouldn’t take me back because they thought I was uncontrollable. They didn’t understand I had no family, no one to love me, that’s why I acted up,” Ms Penrith said.

“They placed me on an Aboriginal Mission I’d never been to and I was raped because I didn’t know anybody. It wasn’t where I was from, they just put me there because to them every Aboriginal was the same.”

Ms Penrith said the Government’s refusal to pay compensation demonstrated it still had a paternalistic approach to Aboriginals. “They stereotype us and think we can’t be trusted with money or that we’ll drink it all,” she said. “Well I don’t drink, and I was wronged by the Government. Aren’t I entitled to something?”

Waterloo resident Willie Gordon, 28, said the apology reached beyond the Stolen Generations to other parts of the Aboriginal community. “It was a deadly day and very emotional for a lot of people,” he said. “As a younger fella I thought of my old uncles who suffered.

“They were pretty strong words that Kevin Rudd used so I hope he backs it up. The things he said touched a lot of people. It’s not going to heal them over night. Those scars are deep to the soul but hopefully things will begin to change.”

Photos (x2): Jack Carnegie - Caption: Scenes from the National Day of Apology in Redfern

Source: South Sydney Herald March 2008 -