National Sorry Day

Friday, May 26, 2023

Every year on 26 May, National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities. We now know these people as the ‘Stolen Generations’.


National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generations survivors and reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 March 1998, one year after the Bringing them home report was tabled in Parliament. The Bringing them home report was the result of a national inquiry that investigated the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families. These children were often subjected to harsh and degrading treatment including abuse, exploitation and racism. Many were also denied education.


It is estimated that between 1 in 10, possibly as many as 1 in 3, Indigenous children were removed from their families and communities between 1910 and the 1970s, and was part of assimilation policies adopted by all Australian governments throughout the twentieth century.


Indigenous children continue to be removed from their families and placed in out-of-home care at rates significantly higher than non-Indigenous children. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2020 about 18,900 (1 in 18) Indigenous children were in out-of-home care, 11 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.


There are currently over 17,000 Stolen Generation survivors in Australia today. Many of these survivors experience lifelong trauma as a result of Stolen Generation policies. This trauma has often been passed on to children and grandchildren, affecting multiple generations. We know this as Generational Trauma.


Common triggers for Stolen Generation survivors include:

  • clinical settings resembling a dormitory or institution they were placed in as a child

  • a tone of voice, such as a person projecting authority

  • a look on someone’s face or a gesture

  • any experience that brings back the feeling of the lack of control they experienced when they were taken from their families.


Health services have a responsibility to ensure we are growing and learning in our care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Together, our aim is to create healthier communities and support closing the health gap.