By Evelyn Leckie
Moving speeches, songs and a photographic display detailing Aboriginal history in the City of Whittlesea highlighted a national Sorry Day ceremony yesterday.
The ceremony, at City of Whittlesea council chambers, acknowledged members of the Stolen Generation on Sorry Day – a day that recognises the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.
The council foyer overflowed with guests including Aboriginal elders, school students, City of Whittlesea councillors, Victoria Police members, CFA members and elders from the Stolen Generation to listen to speeches by Indigenous woman Kellie Hunter, City of Whittlesea Mayor Lawrie Cox and Aboriginal Elder Uncle Herb Patten.
Ms Hunter spoke of her grandmother who was the last Aboriginal female baby born on Coranderrk mission in the 1920s.
“I acknowledge her for her strength and fight growing up as an Aboriginal woman in a time of government policies and assimilation,” she said.
“I say to you today – we are here, we are strong, we are resilient and we are a very proud culture.”
City of Whittlesea Mayor Lawrie Cox added there has not been enough action taken since the first sorry acknowledgement that happened 22 years ago.
“We’re here as the Whittlesea community, a community should be as one – not divided, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your background is or your faith – but we need to acknowledge what has occurred,” Cr Cox said.
“True reconciliation is about saying sorry, and in my words – meaning it.
“We have to know exactly what we’re apologising for – we’re apologising for the policies of past governments that have brought shocking grief, suffering and loss upon Aboriginal communities – we’re apologising especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, communities and their country.
“We’re apologising for the pain, the tears and their grief of these stolen generations and we apologise to the descendants that also carry that pain.
”Mr Patten said he would like to see a day where there would be no more reconciliation days.
“Because we’ll all be as one and we can just go about life,” he said.
Mr Patten also commented on a brighter future with the recent appointment of Ken Wyatt as the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians.
Mr Patten then led the large crowd outside to commence the Annual Sorry Day Walk around council gardens.
Organisers of the event, Whittlesea Reconciliation Group also organised a photo exhibition that told stories of Stolen Generation members while Indigenous musician Pirritu Brett Lee sung songs about his childhood and ancestors.