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Front cover image: From left, Sherry Balcombe, Sallie Pearce, Vicki Clarke and Eva Jo Edwards outside Parliament House, Canberra, on the day of the Apology. Back cover image: In the Members’ Hall following the Apology and holding photographs of family members were, from left, Dindima Johanna Huckle-Moran, Djnaya-Cyla Fraser-Chalmers, Liarnah Jones, Caleb Clifford-Jones, Nyingari Little, and Jessie Waratah Simon-Fitzpatrick. Dindima is holding a photograph of her grandmother Violet Clarice Huckle and Djnaya is holding a photograph of her great-grandmother Daphne Williams. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam).


This booklet was produced by The Koori Mail, in collaboration with Wayne Quilliam, Mervyn Bishop and Reconciliation Australia. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), Helen Moran of the National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) and Deb Hocking of the Stolen Generations Alliance (SGA).

The creative process behind this booklet was all Indigenous.

Editor: Kirstie Parker Design & multimedia: Leigh Harris, Ingeous Design Studios Exhibition photos: Wayne Quilliam and Mervyn Bishop Exhibition Curator: Wayne Quilliam

Š The Koori Mail, 2009

The Koori Mail is a fortnightly national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander newspaper. Established in 1991, it is based in Lismore in the northern rivers region of New South Wales and 100% Aboriginal-owned by five local Bundjalung community organisations.

Warning: This booklet contains images of now-deceased persons. We apologise for any distress this may cause to readers. Wherever possible, appropriate permissions and clearances have been obtained.

Mervyn Bishop

Wayne Quilliam “With this Apology, the world witnessed a country coming together – regardless of race, religion, creed or politics – to share a moment of sincere, inclusive, respectful and public reconciliation.”

When asked to curate the Sorry: More than a word exhibition, these words of Chief Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations representing the Indigenous citizens of Canada, echoed in my ears. I have photographed many important Indigenous events over the years and each has left an indelible mark on my being but the Apology changed me as an Aboriginal man and photographer. The raw, unbridled emotion that filled the air after the Prime Minister’s speech was contagious. I hope this exhibition has absorbed that spirit and gives anyone who experiences it an insight into what the Apology meant to us as a nation. I thank all the uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters for allowing me to capture their emotions. I also thank The Koori Mail for inviting me to document the day and Reconciliation Australia and FaHCSIA for their support in ensuring that these images continue to evoke discussion. I am fortunate to have a large and supportive family, and being Aboriginal means that I have a network of people throughout the country that allows me to feel at home wherever I throw my swag. With more than 100 exhibitions in Europe, the US, South America, Asia and Australia to his name and having been published in more than 500 publications over the past decade, Wayne Quilliam has gained a reputation as one of Australia’s top photographers. He is best known for his work in Indigenous affairs in Australia and overseas, and attributes his success to his family and culture.

It was important to me to be there in Canberra during the Apology, to be able to record that moment in time in pictures. It was a professional thing but I also got a bit teary to see some people who I hadn’t seen for thirty years. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was very accommodating; he had been chatting and greeting folk all day. What a sterling effort. On that day, I thought that if it were up to the black men and women in Parliament House and throughout Australia, with an election coming up, he would have had their votes. Some of the stories that people told on the day were so sad. I just shot what I could see, both the tears and the joy. Mervyn Bishop is one of Australia’s leading photojournalists. Born and bred in Brewarrina in northwestern NSW, he was the first Indigenous person to gain a cadetship for a major daily newspaper and worked as a press photographer for The Sydney Morning Herald for 17 years. Bishop’s best known work includes his 1975 image of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam ceremonially handing back the soil of Daguragu to Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari, an historic moment in the land rights movement. In 1971, Bishop was named Australian Press Photographer of the Year for Life and death dash, his photo of a nun carrying a sick child in her arms. His work is also held in the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of NSW. Bishop now works as a freelance photographer.

Many Australians will long remember where they were on 13 February 2008. It was the day when the Federal Parliament acted to deal with some of the nation’s unfinished business – to right an historic wrong and open a new chapter in our shared history. “Imagine if this had happened to us,” the Prime Minister the Hon Kevin Rudd asked of nonIndigenous Australians that day. The ‘this’ referred to by the Prime Minister was the decades to the early 1970s when government policies and practices saw an estimated 50,000 Aboriginal children removed – ‘stolen’ – on the basis of their race. And thousands of Australians – gathered at Parliament House in Canberra, or watching telecasts in public parks and buildings, schools, offices and homes around the country that day – did as they were asked. They tried to imagine how they would have felt had they, as children, been branded uncontrollable or neglected, in some cases literally torn from their mother’s arms, institutionalised and told they were unloved and unlovable, forbidden from speaking their language, and subjected to physical or sexual abuse. And they tried to imagine how they would have coped had they been the mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters of those taken. In doing so, many Australians developed a new or renewed empathy for the nation’s Stolen Generations, to whom the Federal Parliament – first the Government, then the Opposition and the minor parties – formally apologised that day.

Given years of sometimes-rancorous debate about whether there was anything to apologise for let alone the merits of symbolic versus practical gestures, many Indigenous Australians doubted that the Apology would ever come. Indeed, for some, it came too late. But few were unmoved to hear the grief and suffering of countless Indigenous families, chronicled so poignantly in the pages of the 1997 Bringing them home report, acknowledged at last. The Prime Minister pledged then that the Apology would be more than a ‘clanging gong’, or a symbol without substance. And it is from that commitment that this exhibition draws its name. As illustrated in these photographs by Wayne Quilliam and Mervyn Bishop, the Apology generated tremendous sadness and then, if not quite elation, palpable relief for the Stolen Generations and their families. For some, the occasion marked the true beginning of their personal healing journey. It could also be argued that nationally it was a tipping point in Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. While the Apology remains burned into the nation’s collective memory, the extent to which it will be more than a clanging gong has yet to be seen. As the Prime Minister said on 13 February 2008, ‘We have come together to deal with the past so that we might fully embrace the future’.

That future is now. – The Koori Mail




1. 2. 3.

Aboriginal businessman John Moriarty and former Prime Minister the Right Hon Malcolm Fraser reflect on the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) Patron Bob Randall, from Mutitjulu. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) Djakapurra Munyarryun (second from right) strikes a pose with dancers Jeannette Fabila, Rita Pryce, Micqaella Pryce, Shellie Bingarape and Rachel Wallace outside Parliament House. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)





The Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, and Indigenous Affairs Minister, The Hon Jenny Macklin, greet then-Stolen Generations Alliance Co-Patron Lowitja O’Donoghue AC, CBE upon her arrival at Parliament House before the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) The Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, delivers the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous people. (Photo by Mervyn Bishop)




Stolen Generations member Uncle Vince Peters listens during the Apology. (Photo by Mervyn Bishop)


Stolen Generations members, family and friends in the public gallery listen to the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)




The Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, and then-Opposition leader, The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson, acknowledge the public gallery after the Apology. Mr Rudd is carrying a glass coolamon presented to the Parliament by Aunty Lorraine Peeters, from NSW, on behalf of members of the Stolen Generations. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) 9. Historian, writer and former Reconciliation Australia Director Dr Jackie Huggins let her smile show how she felt after the Apology. (Photo by Mervyn Bishop) 10. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma formally responds to the Apology in the Members’ Hall. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)




13. 11. Members of the House of Representatives on their feet and applauding as the Prime Minister and Dr Nelson carry the glass coolamon through the chamber to present to the Speaker, Mr Harry Jenkins. (Photo by Mervyn Bishop) 12. Jubilation outside the parliamentary chamber. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) 13. Queensland’s Aunty Delmae Barton and other Stolen Generations members speak with the Prime Minister in the Members’ Hall following the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HANSARD Wednesday, 13 February 2008 Mr RUDD (Griffith—Prime Minister) (9.00 am)—I move:

That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.


A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.


14. The public gallery. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) 15. Stolen Generations members Netta Cahill-McCarthy, Lorna Cubillo and Valerie Day were invited into the parliamentary chamber to hear the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)

One year on, in his own words… This is a record of The Koori Mail’s interview with the Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the first anniversary of the Apology. KM: Why was it important for you – a non-Aboriginal fella from country Queensland who went on to become the Prime Minister – to do what you did on 13 February 2008? KR: I felt as a human being and as an Australian of European ancestry that we had wasted so much time in getting to a starting point for reconciliation. For me, that starting point was simply saying that we were sorry. Until you’ve said you’re sorry to somebody, you can’t get on and build or rebuild a relationship. It was practical in terms of how I as a human being relate to others, but also how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians go forward. So I had a real sense of ‘Let’s not waste another moment; let’s just get on with it. There’s too much that needs to be done and this stands in the road’.

KM: The Apology generated a huge amount of emotion amongst Indigenous Australians; it still does. How did you feel as you walked into the parliamentary chamber? KR: I had no idea what the reaction would be in Australia and I had no idea there would be any reaction internationally; it hadn’t even crossed my mind. What I did have an idea about was this: The absolute importance of getting it right. It would be fair to say that I had complete writer’s block in the lead up to the Apology. I didn’t want to write just another speech and I didn’t want to replicate the words of someone else. This had to be authentically by the nation’s Prime Minister; in my own words. Those words wouldn’t come until I sat down and spoke at length with someone who was from the Stolen Generations, Nanna (Lorna) Fejo. In what was a quite experience for a politician, I sat down, shut up and listened. Having done so, you then enter into the mind experience of others and from that point on you can begin to speak it. That was only a day or two before the Apology. I sat down and I just wrote and wrote. It was still troubling me so I stayed up until about three o’clock on the morning of the Apology, just writing by hand. I handed the words

to my staff to type up as I went to greet the Aboriginal people, the Stolen Generations survivors and other representatives. But when I finished greeting them and spending some time with them, I realised I still had a few more lines to write. That was at about 8.30am. Now, this thing started at 9am and the Leader of the House Anthony Albanese came in at 8.45am and said ‘Okay boss, time to go’. Then he looked at me and said ‘Bugger me, you haven’t finished yet’. And I said ‘Yeah, I’ll be ready in five minutes or so’. Walking into the chamber, I was very deeply humbled because I was simply a vehicle whom history had chosen. I was there to say something important to generations of people for whom such cruelty had been the norm. Another feeling I had was essentially practical. The speech had just come off the printer and I was actually dictating the last few words to someone at about 8.50am. My thoughts at that point were very practical: ‘I hope all of the pages are in order!’

KM: Many Stolen Generations members were there in the chamber and have spoken of their need to look you in the face as you spoke, to gauge your sincerity. How did that make you feel? KR: It was a mixture of two things really. I was determined to get it right; I wasn’t going to go in there until I felt I had it absolutely right. The other feeling was the one I described before; the absolute importance of all those people in the galleries. I didn’t know then that people were watching around the nation beyond the normal broadcast; I didn’t know about any of that. I asked someone the day before how the Stolen Generations were going to come into the building and they said ‘Oh, I think they’re coming through the side entrance, to the House of Representatives’. I said ‘No, bring them in the Ministerial entrance. Bring them into the Prime Minister’s courtyard’. No-one had actually thought of that but Jenny (Macklin) and Therese (Rein) and I thought it was a good idea.

When everyone arrived, it was quite eerie. No-one was walking towards us. They sort of stopped still and then I just sang out ‘Hey!’ and then it was alright; it all just happened from there. You had to be respectful of people because understandably some were very, very bruised and shaky coming in.

KM: What difference do you think the Apology made to non-Indigenous Australians? KR: That question is probably best put to community leaders across the country because everyone will have a different take on it. But what has been said to me by a number of Australians of European origin – living both here and abroad – is that it made them even prouder to be Australian. That’s one thing. Another thing that has happened, I think, is that so many Australians who may have had more ‘redneck’ views, I think, were softened by the palpable physicality and the emotion of the Apology. Suddenly it seemed that we had come through this and that there was a change in view and an unhardening of hearts.

KM: So, how do you feel about the Apology one year later?


KR: I believe the Apology itself was right but, as I said then and I still believe now, it was barely the beginning when I talk about closing the gap. The Apology built a bridge of respect from non-Indigenous people towards Indigenous Australians. Now, having crossed that bridge, the land on the other side of it is all about closing the gap. For me, it is a very practical program. Unless we get that right in housing, health, employment, education and early childhood initiatives, then the Apology becomes a dead letter and I am not about to let that happen. We intend to make a difference, a big practical difference. So a year on, I am so glad that I did it and so glad that it has been received by Aboriginal people in the spirit in which it was offered. But I am also determined to make it work in closing the gap and, as you know from your own experience, that’s the hard bit.

16. Christine King (left) and Rosemary Fejo Parfitt (right) flank their mother Lorna ‘Nanna’ Fejo and the Prime Minister Mr Rudd in the parliamentary courtyard following the Apology. Mr Rudd spent time with Nanna Fejo before crafting the words of his Apology motion. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam)

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello who was visiting Geneva being one of them, saying how proud they felt that day to be Australians. Although I felt the Apology was absolutely genuine, I would like to see all of the recommendations of the Bringing them home report implemented. Of course, Link-Up services continue to try and reunite Stolen Generations people with their families but reparation and compensation are the two big issues that are outstanding. Yes, we’ve had the Apology. That was absolutely wonderful and Prime Minister Rudd goes down in history as having done that. But there still needs to be much more action. A member of the Yankunytjatjara people of South Australia, Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue AC, CBE has devoted her life to the welfare of Aboriginal people. She never knew her white father and, at the age of two, was taken away from her mother at Indulkana, who she

Lowitja O’Donoghue


I was in Canberra for the Apology because a group of us had been invited to listen to it from the Parliamentary chamber or the galleries. As we arrived at Parliament House, we were greeted by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister Jenny Macklin. It was all very personal in that people who wanted a kiss got one, those who wanted a hug got one and those who wanted a photo got one too. The words of the actual Apology touched me; I felt that they were genuine. For me, it meant that people really understood and believed for the first time that the Stolen Generations were real; that they did happen. Many white Australians had not come to terms with that before then. The day of the Apology really was a wonderful day, not just in Parliament House but also around Australia where all those big screens were made available for people to go to a central place to watch the proceedings. It was great being in the chamber but the atmosphere down there on the lawns in front of Parliament House looked amazing too. Everyone was able to express freely how they felt – they were cheering and hugging each other, whereas in the house we could only shed tears. Afterwards, I had lots of feedback from Australians overseas,

was not to see for 33 years. Her career was studded with ‘firsts’: she was the first Aboriginal nurse in SA, the first Aboriginal woman awarded an Order of Australia (1976) and the first Chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (1990). Lowitja was also a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) which successfully lobbied for the 1967 Referendum which led to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians being counted in the national Census for the first time. In 1983 she was honoured with a CBE and in I984 she was named Australian of the Year. In 1993, she received an honorary doctorate from Murdoch University, the first of a series of such doctorates recognising her achievements in Aboriginal administration. Lowitja is also a former CoPatron of the National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) and the Stolen Generations Alliance (SGA).

survive in this society that has been invented for me. I believe the Apology changed the climate for white and black people in this country but it would be bad if it were just left at that. If they are not going to act on it, it’s just empty words. It would be seen as a political stunt and history will judge that. Robert (Jo) Stuurman, formally known as Jo Cuttabut, was born in Western Australia to a Noongar mother and a non-Aboriginal man from Sydney who was on leave from the army. When Robert was 14 months old, he was adopted from a hospital by Dutch migrants, who went on to adopt two other Aboriginal children. “To adopt white babies, there was a four-year waiting list and a lot of paperwork but people could adopt Aboriginal babies almost instantaneously,” Robert said. “They often gave people a fairer child to get them used to the idea before

Robert (Jo) Stuurman I was hoping for an apology not so much for me but for whitefellas so that they could move on towards finding their own identity. But I have to say that it ended up helping me too; it took a blockage out of the way. I was surprised how I felt during the Apology. I don’t know if it was post trauma or whatever but I had tears in my eyes and I was shaking like a leaf. When I went into Parliament House that day, it felt like an alien kind of building. I didn’t feel as if I belonged there, you know? But, after the Apology, I did. So, yes, it was good to have the Apology. I know there’s always a negative or down side but I feel like it gave me a bit of breathing space so that I can be myself more in a society that doesn’t really accept me. I feel like I have a fighting chance now. If someone asked me if I would go through all that stuff again, I would have to say ‘no, I didn’t ask for any of it’. But I don’t have any regrets because I did a lot of forgiving. It wasn’t easy to do that but I didn’t want to be bitter and no fun to be around. I really feel that the Apology was a watershed in the sense that it helped Australians to come to terms with who they were even though there is still a lot of soulsearching to be done. I am on the road to healing but I think it’s fair that Stolen Generations members be compensated. Like others, I need things to

offering them others.” Raised in Papua New Guinea and Queensland, Robert went on to serve in the Royal Australian Navy for four years before jumping ship to join a traveling circus. He experienced alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness. “Subconsciously, I was looking for identity and meaning but I wasn’t getting it anywhere,” he said. Eventually, though, Robert turned his life around. He went to university and worked as a caseworker with Link-Up where he was involved in about 30 successful reunions. In 1994, Robert was united with his natural mother Alma Toomath, who had herself been removed from her family as a child and sent to Carrolup Native Settlement. He also met his natural father, who grew up in an orphanage. Still getting to know his natural brothers and sisters, Robert now lives with his wife and children at Narangba, north of Brisbane, and lectures on Indigenous perspectives and identity at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He is also a practising artist, and is currently completing a practice-led Masters degree in visual art.

Governments took the Stolen Generations from their homes so I would like to see them give us back something that we can call our own; so we can actually live a life. This past year has been very emotional for me. I have been coming down from the Apology, trying to put it all in perspective. All of the memories that I had lost have started coming back to me. I’m 49 now and, before this, I hadn’t been able to let go of a lot of my emotions. Since the Apology, I have been going back through my life and re-analysing my actions, you know, like ‘how did I get here?’ Now I’m thinking ‘Okay Heather, this is a turning point. I have to let go of the past and live for the future’. My dream is to be able to get back into arts and healing, and I am now preparing for a solo exhibition.

Heather Shearer I was in the chamber in Parliament House, up in the corner where I could look directly into the Prime Minister’s face and I watched him really closely as he read the Apology. In my hands, I had photos of my mum, my partner Tim’s mum and dad who were both Stolen Generations people but have passed away, my children and my adoptive mum and dad. I had the photos with me so the Apology could be read to them as well; it wasn’t just me who needed the Apology. I was hanging on to the Prime Minister’s every word and it actually took my breath away. When I walked out of there, I felt like the weight of the responsibility of hanging on to all of the stories that every Stolen Generations person had ever told me had lifted. In a sense, the responsibility or duty of care had gone back to where it belonged in the first place – to the government system. I felt the wording of the Apology was what we needed to hear. It wasn’t denying any of the realities, the harshness. It was recognition within the government that the wrong thing had been done. It can never take away the fact that I never met my mum – I mean, no one can apologise to me for that. But I thought ‘okay, this is an apology to a nation of Aboriginal people’.

Heather Shearer is an Aboriginal artist and lives in Port Augusta in South Australia with her husband Tim. Born in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Heather was separated from her own family at birth and adopted into a non-Aboriginal family. She grew up in Adelaide, completely cut off from her culture and from Aboriginal people. Since 1978, the mother-of-three has been actively involved with Aboriginal child welfare groups and family link-up services helping, amongst other things, to establish Aboriginal foster care in South Australia. In 1982, during her time as a Link-Up caseworker, she was able to reunite with her birth family but, sadly, not her mother Marjorie Wiseman (nee Fly) who passed away three months earlier. Heather has incorporated her life story into many of her artworks. Her first ever painting was a story about her two families, painted for her Aboriginal family to ask the questions she needed to ask – and eventually find her way home.

should get compensation because it’s important to have something you can pass on to your kids, even just a little bit. When I went to TAFE, we had to write something about our life story. Half of the white students were sitting there with their mouths open and they were all crying. They all said ‘honestly Pam, we didn’t know this went on’. And I said ‘Well, it did. They took the children away’. Sometimes the parents just went down to the riverbank and cried and screamed. You hear these stories, and some of it is so sad. The Apology made me feel that people believed us whereas, before, they could say they just didn’t know. Pam Roberts is a mother and grandmother, and lives in Lismore in northern New South Wales with her husband Trevor. Born in Quirindi, she was one

Pam Roberts I travelled down to Canberra with my friend Lillian King and a few other people from Lismore. On the day, Lil and I went to the Great Hall with everybody else and we all sat there waiting with anticipation. I was crying because I felt a bit sad. I knew the Prime Minister was going to say sorry but I didn’t really know how. Then, when he made the speech, I started to cry even more but it was because I was happy. As soon as he said sorry, it really lifted my spirit. I think if you have had something inside you for years and years and it breaks...well, it was just a beautiful feeling for me, a big moment. I thought the Prime Minister was very humble and it was good when he spoke about how he went and visited that other Aboriginal lady (Lorna ‘Nanna’ Fejo) and spent time talking with her. We were about six rows from the front so we had a real good view. When he spoke, you could feel it. It wasn’t a gammin thing; it was good. Lil had tears in her eyes and she was holding on to me because we were both emotional. There were so many white people that cheered and were really excited about it all too. The Apology is still important to me. I’ll remember it till I die. I think the Stolen Generations

of 10 children. When she was five years old, a woman came to her family home and told Pam and two of her sisters they were going on a train ride. Instead, they were shipped off to Cootamundra Girls Home, south-west of Sydney, for more than ten years. “We were told we were neglected, and that our parents just didn’t want us,” said Pam, now aged 73. “I fretted for my mum a lot until I was about 10. I used to question myself what I had done that was so wrong and then I sort of grew to hate her.” After leaving the girls home when she was about 15, Pam went to work as a domestic. She saw her mother and father again after she married and had her eldest daughter. Of the first time she saw her mother again, she said, “I respected her because she was my mother. I just sort of went up and said ‘Hi Mum’ and gave her a kiss but it meant nothing. That’s what it does to you, missing out on parental love. That still makes me sad.”

or 500 years ago; my people have been here for centuries. For the Prime Minister to acknowledge us, I thought ‘well that’s great’. But, at the same time, sorry is just a word and we can’t live on words alone. Out of a hundred or so of us who were in Sister Kate’s at that time, there would only be 30 or 40 left today. Many have killed themselves, the rest just died too early. Nowadays drugs are killing too many of our young people. Here in my family, seven of them have hung themselves in the last 12 months. I don’t want to see all my family go before me, not the young kids for chrissakes. What I would like is for some of our land to be given back, especially to traditional, tribal people like Nyoongar people so we can have our own places. Somewhere we can help our young people get themselves sorted out and where we can live like normal human beings.

Wayne Riley-Collard I never thought anyone would apologise for what happened to us Stolen Generations mob. On the day of the Apology, I was an invited guest and was being escorted through the building. I took a wrong turn but Cara Jones (daughter of NSDC CoChairperson Helen Moran) spotted me and I ended up in the gallery of the parliamentary chamber, way up the top. I’ve still got my invitation here… ‘The PM cordially invites you to morning tea at 10am’ it says. I’ve put it in a safe place to give to my youngest son, who is six, for when he grows up. It took a long time to comprehend that I actually was there and this man had said sorry, being the first Prime Minister with the decency to acknowledge my people after 220 years. For that I do thank him. When he said the things he was apologising for, the laws and policies, grief and suffering and loss, I felt numb. It was a bit hard to comprehend. The Apology changed things for me in the sense that the Prime Minister acknowledged that we too are human – we’re not flora and fauna. We suffered hurt and pain, and we didn’t come here only 300

Wayne Riley-Collard was born in 1955, to Nyoongar and Knakin Knaki woman Rhoda Riley and Bibbulman man Roy Collard. Wayne’s grandmother Ivy Bennell was a Bibbulman woman, born at Mt Eliza (now known as Kings Park) in 1903. After his parents separated, Wayne – then aged nine – was picked up by the police and sent to Sister Kate’s Orphanage for four years, where he was told repeatedly that his parents didn’t care where he was. When he was 14, Wayne ran away from the orphanage but was apprehended, beaten and locked up in a juvenile prison for several months before his despair convinced his jailers to at last allow him to return home to his mother. As an adult, Wayne worked at a number of different jobs, including Aboriginal liaison officer with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Now living in Midland, on the outskirts of Perth, the divorced father-of-four cares for his dad Roy, aged 78. In 2006, the Nyoongar people successfully claimed native title over metropolitan Perth. Appeals against the ruling by the Federal and State Governments are ongoing.

Yolngu educator, linguist and reconciliation advocate Dr Marika holds Marley Hosch following the Apology. (Photo by Wayne Quilliam) Note: Dr Marika passed away several months after this photo was taken. It is shown here with the permission of her family.

SORRY: More than a word  

An exhibition of photographs by Wayne Quilliam and Mervyn Bishop, from the Apology to Australia's Indigenoue Peoples, 13 February 2008.