Back to top

Not ancient history: Sorry Day

26 May 2020

Australia’s first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 to commemorate the anniversary of the  landmark Bringing them Home report. Commissioner Ivan Frkovic reflects on the history of Sorry Day, and the need for reconciliation.

Bringing them Home is the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children From Their Families, tabled in Federal Parliament in 1997. This report chronicles the history of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families under laws enacted by Australian governments and details the trauma, grief, suffering and injustice experienced by these children, known as the Stolen Generations.

The report made 54 recommendations to address the impact of forcible removal on children, their families and the communities left behind. Many of these recommendations are yet to be implemented.

The impact of removal policies can be traced back to the 1950s, with accounts of as many as one in three Aboriginal children being forcibly removed from their families and communities[1]. It is well known that this practice continued into the 1970s – which is not ancient history, but very much part of our recent history.

For many survivors of those taken, the resulting trauma, pain and suffering remains long after the laws and practices ended. There is now overwhelming evidence that the intergenerational effects of removal does not stop with the children removed. This trauma can be inherited by their children and their children’s children, often in more complex ways.  

Therefore, healing is not only required for those that were taken, but for the mothers, fathers families and communities left behind who are still affected by this trauma.

Something we can all do to support healing is to acknowledge the wrongs of the past. This is critical to the ongoing healing for Australia’s Stolen Generations and their families, and those family’s families.

Part of this healing is about accepting our country’s history and telling the truth about Australia’s colonial past.

Healing is an essential component for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to create a strong future for the next generation.

The Commission is proud to be supporting the Queensland First Families and Children’s Board and the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women to develop a healing strategy and implementation plan for Queensland, together with The Healing Foundation. 

We look forward to sharing the Queensland Healing Strategy with you later this year.


[1] The Healing Foundation

View other news related to these topics: