Today we join the community in marking the twelfth anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation. The 13th of February is the anniversary of the National Apology. On that day in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered an apology in Federal Parliament to all those Indigenous people who had been taken from their families as children by Australian authorities. Kaliah Alice went along to a community event in Veale Gardens on the 13th and spoke to Uncle Ivan Tiwu Copley on why it is such an important day to gather together.
The 13th of February is the anniversary of the National Apology. On that day in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered an apology in Federal Parliament to all those people who’d been taken from their families as children by Australian authorities. Kaliah Alice went along to the community event in Veale Gardens on the 13th. She spoke to Uncle Ivan-Tiwu Copley on why it’s such an important day to gather together.
Hi, I’m Ivan-Tiwu Copley. I’m a Peramangk / Kaurna elder
Thank you Ivan. And thanks for speaking to us today, on such a emotional day, the anniversary of the 2008 apology. Can you tell us why it’s important for community to get together on such a day?
Look, it’s around honouring stolen generations and that’s keeping a pathway open to say that we haven’t forgotten. We haven’t forgotten, and as organized as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, we still haven’t forgotten. We know there’s still healing going on, so that’s part of it. And a major part of it, giving a platform for those people to come together and meet, and feel like I’m not the only one odd person out here that’s talking about this. There’s a lot of people and there’s support, and healing in those numbers of having. And also the organizations like Link-Up, the healing foundation spearheading in there, and the different registered organisations and service providers that have put in for this, because I see the value even under health.
I mean I know there’s Aboriginal representatives from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and statistics are what it’s about as well. The numbers are massive, massive numbers of people affected by the removal. So I think coming together in this and having dancing, smoking ceremonies and healing and actually having traditional healers here as well, where people can feel like they can just easily access support because… Most people don’t realize. They don’t realize the enormity of the effects of early removal, the generational effects that have become a part of, it didn’t finish it until 1972.
The Yellaka dance piece that we saw today and this morning, it does kind of speak to the next generation and it’s the younger generation that are performing and telling their family stories. Why is it important for the younger generation to understand the history?
Yeah, I’m going to say, just straight up, congratulations to Karl and Sonia, and I know Sonia is very emotionally tied to it with the talking about places from her family’s side and things like that. But you know they put in a great deal to have that performance here today and it’s such an excellent job. And then the younger people that are doing it, that are understanding the stories behind there as it’s been done for thousands of years and telling their story and sharing that story, keeping it alive, the knowledge of what’s in the past and there’s so much more complexity to who people are as Aboriginal people in Australia. A lot of people who they are and you know the story around everything being “square and round” it’s so important. Most people, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal Australians, when they get presented with that, understand.
You know we sit around road round tables home, we have a barbecue, we have a campfire, whether it’s Aboriginal or not, and it’s sharing an equal access to it, which says a lot. But this goes on for the oldest living culture in the world still here. And you see a lot of that happening in here the day, the importance of people continuing that healing, some that have passed and gone, some of them didn’t get the Apology and that’s so upsetting for their families. They were left behind because they knew that their grandmother or their mother, or their grandfather or father didn’t hear that apology. They went to the grave and not receiving that. So that’s, that’s a big thing as well. “Oh I wish, wish mum was still here. I Wish Nan was still here to have heard that”
Because it’s so important that that acknowledgement and the learning, of the effects of those policies. And how it’s run throughout the population. Massive. And you know, we’re talking third now, fourth generations that are affected by it and people don’t realise how much it is for me here today is, is all around knowing that there’s other layers around it and I’ve worked and been involved with, before the apology and over the bridge and stolen generations since 1998 and to me over that time it was about people affected by stolen generations, first wave, second wave and so on. And then in more recent times I realised that it wasn’t just that the complex layers above that with the mothers that were left behind… The fathers, the uncles, the artists, the grandparents that were left behind and never saw their children again.
It’s not just the stolen generation. What about those that are left behind as well? And for me, when I come, this event here, I tend to think about that and think about what the mothers went through not seeing and the father’s not seeing the children ever again. Just something that people sometimes don’t even think about. So that’s another part of the complex layer, and then the hurt of what their children and grandchildren when they think about that and feel, ah, she must’ve been so sad. You know they’ve got to go through that as well. Thinking on how their parents and grandparents felt as well.
What would you like to see the community to do to continue this healing?
I think like this is a really nice park and that Adelaide city council was a lot to do with, doing a healing park and their works and things like that. I think… My opinion, that’s what it is that councils all over South Australia and Australia look at their reconciliation action plans and look at there must be a space here that we can call the healing park a place for reflection and to come along and people can come down and know, because the naming of it and the policy within those council regions that there’s a history there. And so it just encourages everyone to keep learning about it, and recognizing the acknowledgement to people scattered all over Australia and the toe strike. The acknowledgement is true. Identifying and having places like that where people can go because they’ve admitted and acknowledged it by naming it.
And acknowledgement that community, anyone from the community come and reflect. What about in schools? Do you think there’s enough being taught about the history of Australia in schools?
I think so. I can only speak about South Australia and I know I go to a lot of schools in South Australia and the independent schools’ association, which is really, really large. They all independent schools conglomerate together and that brought up through their staff to the CEO and the board and all that have procedures and policies, ensuring that that education takes place across all of those schools. That’s massive. The Education Department also probably has a policy around that curriculum, which restraints a little bit more, but I think you know in the last few years that’s grown massively when you get people from these big, big massive organizations and big properties, big schools, big churches that go together and go, ah, I understand. I’ve been to the Breakfast and I do understand we need to have this in our policy, and it’s got to go through curriculum. It’s our history. We’ve got to acknowledge our history as Australians, Aboriginal people. It’s our history. It’s been written. We can’t change it, but we sure can rewrite the future.
Ivan-Tiwu Copley at the anniversary of the apology event in Veale Gardens last week, speaking to Kaliah Alice. You’re listening to Aboriginal way radio.