Closing the Gap, National Apology to the Stolen Generations: 15th Anniversary

Closing the Gap, National Apology to the Stolen Generations: 15th Anniversary Main Image

08 March 2023

It was a great honour to be in this place 15 years ago as Kevin Rudd offered a formal apology to Australia's First Nations stolen generations on behalf our nation.

The apology acknowledged that the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments had resulted in the forcible removal of First Nations children from their families and, as said at the time, inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on our fellow Australians. The removal of First Nations children from their families was also part of an attempt in other moves through the history of our nation to wipe out the culture, economy, language and spirituality of Australia's First Nations people. But, as we know, First Nations

Australians are resilient, and today we find ourselves in a place where, through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we have a generous invitation from First Nations people to make First Nations people part of our national Constitution so that we can show ourselves as a nation that didn't start at federation when the colonies came together but can look back 60,000 years to their laws, customs and culture, and create a national statement that invites all Australians to belong to that profound history.


I would love to say that in the 15 years since the apology we are further towards closing the gap, but as we know, the data shows we're not on track. Given our history, I don't find that to be at all surprising. We haven't as a nation fully and properly reset our institutional arrangements so that First Nations people have a voice and the capacity to negotiate with government and parliament on behalf of their own communities.

We know not only that governments at the state and national levels need to redouble their efforts to improve outcomes but that we need to do more. Our gap is not closing fast enough, and we will not let this stagnation stand. Our implementation plan for closing the gap invests $400 million in additional funding, but we also need to make sure that First Nations people are with us at the heart of that decision-making every step of the way. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are already leading the way, transforming health and community services and policies and programs, and rebuilding them with the foundations of culture, community and connection to country. Community led solutions respond much more effectively to current and future needs. They do this in holistic and robust ways using cultural knowledge and practices to restore and build up the wellbeing of their communities.

It is high time that our nation acknowledged that it is Aboriginal people, our First Nations people, who are best placed to lead and create their own solutions. It is why constitutional recognition is so important at the vote this year. It is why acknowledgement and empowerment through our constitution is so important. It is high time for constitutional recognition. It is high time for voice, treaty and truth. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Ordered that further consideration of the documents be listed on the Notice Paper as a general business order of the day.