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"Sorry": the unfinished business of the Bringing Them Home report

Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians government relations Stolen Generations Australia

On 26 May 1997 the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, entitled Bringing Them Home, was tabled in parliament. It received widespread publicity the following day at the Australian Reconciliation Convention in Melbourne and led to continuing public and parliamentary debate about the implementation of its recommendations.

A key recommendation in the report was that reparation be made to Indigenous people affected by policies of forced removal. That reparation should include an acknowledgement of responsibility and apology from all Australian parliaments and other agencies which implemented policies of forcible removal as well as monetary compensation.

State and territory parliaments have apologised specifically to those affected by the policies of separation. Under the Howard government the Commonwealth parliament did not agree to a full apology but expressed ‘deep and sincere regret’ for unspecified past injustices as part of a Motion of Reconciliation on 26 August 1999.

Since elected to government in 2007 the Australian Labor Party has announced that it will honour its policy of an unreserved apology to the stolen generations but has rejected any suggestions to compensate victims.

These two components of reparation, an apology and compensation, remain as the major unfinished business of the Bringing Them Home report. This background note provides an overview of these issues within the context of the Bringing Them Home report, a chronology of the key developments in the debate, the text of state and territory apologies and links to further web resources.

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