On Sunday 12 February, The Healing Foundation gathered together on Ngunnawal Country with delegations of 107 Stolen Generation Survivors, our staff and members of Parliament as an act of collective healing and to pay tribute to survivors, descendants and their families.
We acknowledged that it’s been 15 years since former Prime Minister, Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC delivered the National Apology on Parliament House lawns. Instead of celebrating another anniversary passing us by without action addressing trauma, this yearwe recognised the trauma that still exists within our communities, and used this opportunity to highlight to government leaders what actions are needed to move towards true healing.
The gathering, hosted by The Healing Foundation, Culture is Life and the National Indigenous Australians Agency, was opened by a Welcome to Country from Ngunnawal/Ngambri man Paul Girrawah House. He was joined by his mother Dr Matilda House and son, Reuben House. Our Masters of Ceremony John-Paul Janke and Shellie Morris did a great job looking after the proceedings and provided a laugh to guests through the event.
A highlight for many was to see and hear Uncle Archie Roach again. Last year we lost a giant and a leader in healing. Uncle Archie paved the way for truth-telling in Australia and the world, and highlighted the past mistreatments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. He shone a light on the importance of addressing trauma and intergenerational healing. This event marked the first National Apology without Uncle Archie Roach and Uncle Jack Charles, who were strong trailblazers, and their legacy will live on through generations to come.
We were joined by an expansive lineup of keynote speakers that included: THF Chair Professor Steve Larkin, Senator the Hon. Patrick Dodson, Minister The Hon. Linda Burney MP and Coalition of Peaks Lead Convenor, Aunty Pat Turner AM as well as cultural performances by Jessie Lloyd, Radical Son, Madi Colvillie-Walker, Muggera Cultural Enterprise, Yuwaya Wilma Li Danz Company and Kiwat.
One Survivor that attended said “I didn’t know what healing was before coming here”.
It was an emotional day for everyone in the room, filled with collective strength, tears and raw emotion.
“There is still hurt, pain, grief, frustration and ongoing trauma being perpetuated by systems that still require major reform,” said THF Chair Professor Larkin in his address.
“Systems that still fail to conform to key priorities, including most of those laid out 25 years ago in the Bringing Them Home Report.
“We have great hopes for this federal government but there’s an urgency to our calls.”
Larkin addressed the rising age of Stolen Generation Survivors and stressed the urgent need for action needed in our health care systems.
“We don’t want to impede the Voice to Parliament or other priorities, but we are looking to the upcoming May budget for major action,” he said.
Minister Linda Burney MP called for a yes vote on the Voice to Parliament, saying, “The apology 15 years ago was an acknowledgement that over decades, governments of different persuasions, have failed our people.
“It was also a commitment to do better in the future and we still haven’t fulfilled that commitment to do better,” she said.
“Now is the time to embrace the possibility of new ways, to address challenges where old approaches haven’t worked.
“A future where we have a voice on the issues that affect us because we know that solutions to so many of our challenges are found in our communities at the grassroots level.”
Senator Dodson’s address included the message of ‘staying the course,’ recognising the distance that our communities and leaders have come and the need to keep progressing towards true healing.
These were just a few of the words from our speakers. Our performers also shared moving stories of their personal experiences, through song, dance and language and contributing to a day few who attended will forget.
To all of our partners, staff and supporters who contributed to the success of the event – a heartfelt thank you to you! There is so much work to be done on the unfinished business of healing, but knowing we’re on the journey together helps us keep striving.
To view the event, including the powerful speeches and performances, please visit our website page: https://healingfoundation.org.au/make-healing-happen-2023/