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You might have heard of Australia Day and other popular national holidays like Anzac Day, but have you ever heard of the National Sorry Day? A relatively contemporary event, the history of National Sorry Day in Australia is closely related to the country’s indigenous population.
As a long-overdue recognition day, more people should understand more about this date and its importance. Before you travel to Australia, make sure to learn more about this important day, and what it means for Aussies, especially the indigenous population.
What is National Sorry Day?
National Sorry Day is observed every 26 May, an effort of reconciliation toward and healing for Australia’s First Nations people. It acknowledges the suffering, mistreatment, and abuse toward Aboriginal and Torres Islander people by the first British colonies that came to Australia.
The history of National Sorry Day in Australia is especially related to the Stolen Generations. This name refers to children of indigenous populations who have been forcibly removed from their families by the state government, federal government, and the church. The goal was forced assimilation, especially for mixed-race Aboriginal children, so that they could blend with the white society.
Using laws and good intentions as disguises, the government was responsible in removing babies and children from their families, forcing them to shed their culture, and putting children in foster care. The latest happenings of forced removals of Aboriginal children from their families were recorded in the 1970s, yet the government had never apologized formally for this treatment, until the National Sorry Day was established.
How Did National Sorry Day Start?
The National Sorry Day history started with the investigative report titled Bringing Them Home, which was brought to the Parliament in 1997. The investigation had been launched by the government to research the country’s past wrongdoings, which were done using the name of law. On 26 May 1998, after thorough study, pondering, and observation, the National Sorry Day was established.
The Prime Minister at that time, John Howard, released a motion to officially start the reconciliation toward the Aboriginal and Torres Islander populations. In the motion, the Prime Minister expressed deep regret toward the state’s treatment toward the indigenous people, including the continuous trauma and hurt.
Since its first commemoration, the National Sorry Day always aims to bring awareness about the past abuse and mistreatment toward indigenous populations, the effects that their descendants must endure, and suggestions for the best discussions and reconciliation efforts.
The Meaning of National Sorry Day for Australia
National Sorry Day is an opportunity for Australia and the Aussies to better understand their identities. Embracing national pride also means acknowledging the country’s dark past, the trauma experienced by many generations of Australian indigenous people, and commitment toward reconciliation and healing efforts.
This important day also resulted in more campaigns and activities toward healing and reconciliation. For example, an NGO campaign called “Close the Gap” was established in 2007, dedicated to supporting indigenous populations in achieving health service equality.
In 2008, the Australian government established a state campaign framework inspired by Close the Gap. Called Closing the Gap, this initiative aims to reduce injustice and inequality that still often affect indigenous groups in Australia, even today.
Facts About National Sorry Day
There are several unique facts regarding this special day. For example:
There is Testimony Website from the Stolen Generation
Did you know that the Stolen Generation survivors have their own testimony website? The Stolen Generation Testimonies is an online project to bring the voices of survivors to the public, using technology. This way, visitors can learn about history straight from the voices of the actual survivors. This website also acts as a digital archive.
Official Websites Have Statements of Acknowledgment
Whenever you open Australian official websites, such as the government sites, gallery and museum websites, and websites for national parks, you will see statements that acknowledge the local indigenous population that traditionally “guard” the land. This is one of the efforts to increase recognition toward the presence of the First Nations people in the country.
Travelers Can Join Outdoor Activities
National Sorry Day is usually marked with speeches and outdoor events, such as barbecue parties, concerts, art performances, and marches on main streets. If you happen to be in the country, do not miss the major events near your area. You will see the vibrant proof of solidarity between indigenous and non-indigenous populations of Australia.
It Is Not a Public Holiday!
Despite being an important day, National Sorry Day is not a public holiday. However, schools and other educational institutions use this moment to learn about everything related to the day. School teachers get a lot of resources about National Sorry Day that they can include in worksheets, special classes, and school events. All these are parts of efforts to educate future generations about history and indigenous culture.
While it is not a holiday, road conditions and traffic will still be affected by various outdoor events and marches that happen. Make sure to consider this if you think of driving, making itineraries, or using public transports when visiting Australia.
What Came after National Sorry Day?
Long after the first establishment of the National Sorry Day, the government and Aussie people have continued the journey with more initiatives, campaigns, and efforts to support indigenous population.
For example, in 2017, a document called the Uluru Statement from the Heart marked the launch of important voices from the council members of Uluru First Nation people. The document was composed by both indigenous and non-indigenous council members, further emphasizing the commitment to work together.
The reconciliation efforts are also included in Australia’s election campaign. The indigenous and non-indigenous members of the society urge the government and political candidates to involve reconciliation into various programs. They include recognition efforts through using indigenous names for streets and public places, campaigns to support indigenous causes, and more parts about indigenous history and culture in school curriculum.
Learning about the history of National Sorry Day in Australia is great to make you understand more about the country and its people. Plan to visit Australia close to this date? Make sure to act respectfully and use this opportunity to better understand Australia!