Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples

The Australian Government apologises to Indigenous Australians

On 13 February 2008 the then Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, moved a motion of Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples with specific reference to the Stolen Generations.
The Prime Minister described it as an occasion 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 in the future”.
The motion honoured the Indigenous peoples of this land and reflected in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations: “For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry”.
The Apology passed with bipartisan support from the Parliament and received a standing ovation from the floor of the House of Representatives as well as from the public gallery. The Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Brendan Nelson MP, and the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, then shook hands with members of the Stolen Generations seated in the distinguished visitors’ gallery.
Stolen Generations’ elder Aunty Lorraine Peeters presented the Australian Parliament with the gift of a glass coolamon. The coolamon contained a message thanking the Parliament for the Apology on behalf of all those affected by removal from their families. In the message Aunty Lorraine explained that the coolamon was a traditional vessel for carrying children, and “a symbol of the hope we place in the new relationship you wish to forge with our people”.

  • The Australian Government assisted more than 100 members of the Stolen Generations to travel to Canberra to be present in the House of Representatives Gallery at Parliament House to witness the Apology. Others viewed proceedings from screens set up in the Great Hall.

Thousands of Indigenous and other Australians viewed the Apology from the lawns outside Parliament House where they were also entertained by a concert featuring Indigenous performers. The Apology was broadcast live around Australia, where it watched by almost 1.3 million television viewers.


Commemorating the anniversary of the Apology


On the first anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples Australians were invited to reflect on the meaning of this historic event and how they might support the process of reconciliation.
In Canberra, an exhibition of Apology photographs by renowned Indigenous photographers Wayne Quilliam and Mervyn Bishop titled Sorry – More than a Word was displayed at Parliament House from 9-27 February, 2009. View photos from this exhibition.
It was at this exhibition that Minister Macklin announced the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.
The Healing Foundation provides practical and innovative healing services, as well as training and research, with a strong focus on the unique needs of members of the Stolen Generations.
A number of community events took place around the country during 2009. For more information about the Apology events and resources visit the Reconciliation Australia website
During February 2009 all Australian schools received a large reproduction of the Apology Motion calligraphy artwork as a permanent reminder of our shared Journey of Reconciliation. This was accompanied by a letter from Minister Macklin encouraging schools to become involved in reconciliation activities to celebrate the Apology anniversary. The original artwork is on permanent display at Parliament House.


To mark the second anniversary of the Apology, the Australian Government announced an investment of $585,000 in the leadership skills of the Stolen Generations to support them as positive role models in the community.
As part of this package, the Government provided:

  • 20 scholarships for members of the Stolen Generations to undertake a Certificate II in Indigenous Leadership at the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre.|
  • $230,000 for a National Stolen Generations Indigenous Leadership Program, where participants have the chance to meet with other Indigenous people from diverse backgrounds and get involved in leadership activities, one-on-one and group discussions.
  • $274,000 for capacity development workshops held around the country to educate organisations working with or advocating on behalf of the Stolen Generations.
  • Funding to Stolen Generations’ organisations to organise local events around the country to mark the Second Anniversary of the Apology. Activities funded included community get-togethers, memorial services, talking circles, information stalls and art workshops.

The National Rugby League – NRL Indigenous All Stars v NRL All Stars match is a celebration of the game’s best athletes and of their commitment to the community. The event is the centrepiece of Rugby League’s commitment to Indigenous Australia and an event that promotes harmony across all cultures. A number of Stolen Generations members were provided with tickets to the NRL Indigenous All Stars game on 13 February 2010.
Prior to the start of the game, Leah Purcell read an introduction written by Indigenous elder Aunty Lorraine Peeters, which acknowledged Rugby League’s connection to Australia and asked the packed stadium to pause for a moment’s silence to acknowledge and remember the Stolen Generations. Aunty Lorraine Peeters, herself a member of the Stolen Generations, joined Purcell on stage for the reading.
With assistance from FaHCSIA, the National Library marked the Second Anniversary by launching a special website for the Bringing Them Home Oral History Project. The site features the stories of people who were affected by the removal of Indigenous children from their families.
To listen to these stories, visit the Bringing them Home website.


Sunday 13th February 2011 was the third anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples. Community groups across Australia marked the anniversary with a series of local events supported by the Australian Government.
Through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, the Australian Government supported 72 organisations with up to $500 for apology commemoration activities to raise awareness of the Stolen Generations, educate the community on Indigenous history and celebrate the Indigenous contribution to Australian life. Events included community gatherings, memorial services, talking circles, information stalls, art workshops and small concerts.
Minister Macklin addressed the guests at the NSW Governor’s Apology Anniversary Breakfast on Friday 11 February, noting that “it is important Australians know about this chapter in our nation’s story. Understanding the impact of removing children from their families and traditional lives, brings home the magnitude of such a mistake and engenders our deep sorrow and regret.
The second NRL All Stars match held on the Gold Coast on Saturday 12th February featured the best Indigenous Rugby League talent in the country pitted against representatives of every club in the NRL in the spirit of reconciliation.  The significance of the third anniversary of the Apology was recognised with a minute’s silence just before kick-off.
FaHCSIA supported thirty members of the Stolen Generations through the two National representative organisations to attend the match. Unfortunately the Indigenous All Stars didn’t win but all players gave their best in a most exciting and entertaining game.
The match was supported by the Australian Government through the Learn. Earn. Legend! program which uses Indigenous sport and community positive role models to encourage Indigenous young people to stay in school and create a pathway to employment.


On 13 February 2012, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, launched the Stolen Generations’ Testimonies website at a morning tea with Stolen Generations’ members to mark the fourth anniversary of the National Apology to Indigenous Australians.
Funded in part by the Australian Government, the website has recorded the lives and experiences of more than 30 Stolen Generation members.


To mark the fifth anniversary of the National Apology, a Bill for an Act of Recognition was passed with unanimous support through the House of Representatives.
The Act of Recognition is an important step towards achieving constitutional change to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  The Act includes a statement of recognition of the unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that largely reflects the wording suggested by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
On 12 March 2013, the Act of Recognition was passed unanimously through the Senate. The Act came into effect on 28 March 2013.
For more information visit the Recognise website.

Media releases


Information on the background to the National Apology can be found at these links:

Related information