Invited Members of the Stolen Generations heard first-hand in the gallery of The House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House, Canberra, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, speaking to the motion that was the Apology at 9.00 am on 13 February 2008. The Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, replied.
Crowds of people across Australia watched the Apology on large screens in their own cities and towns. Photographic and video records of those witnessing the Apology, show sombre and reflective faces as the Prime Minister spoke of the wrongs governments had inflicted on Indigenous peoples across Australia and a huge wave of tears, relief and applause when he finished speaking.
Shelley Reys, Director of Reconciliation Australia, described the atmosphere in the House as the Prime Minister was speaking as ‘electrifying’ and the response of the crowd as ‘an exhale of relief and emotion’.
Following the Apology, Lorraine Peeters, a member of the Stolen Generations, presented the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition with a glass coolamon, made by Bai Bai Napangardi, a Balgo artist.
Inside the coolamon was a message thanking the Parliament for saying ‘sorry’ – that the Apology showed compassion and opened a path for walking together in the future.
The Speaker of the House, Harry Jenkins, accepted the coolamon, which is on display at Parliament House. (to check if it is on display)
... and let the healing begin
Tom Calma, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, was asked by the Stolen Generations Alliance and the National Sorry Day Committee to respond to the Apology.
In the Members’ Hall, Mr Calma thanked the Parliament for acknowledging and paying respect to the Stolen Generations, saying that the foundations for healing to take place had now begun.
He noted that there were many recommendations in the Bringing Them Home report that have not been implemented.