Indigenous Australians in Bendigo gathered on Tuesday to mark 10 years since the federal government’s historic apology to the Stolen Generations, with community leaders asking that their millennia-old history and culture never be forgotten.
Dja Dja Wurrung man Trent Nelson said the government-sanctioned removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children from their families, a common practice until the 1970s, continued to affect every Indigenous Australian today.
“Every little [baby] that’s born, they hold that connection to the past,” he said.
“In our culture, it’s always a circle.”
Remembering those injustices was important to ensure the same was never perpetrated again, he said.
“Just because European settlers came here and dictated to us that we can’t practice out culture no more and speak our language, doesn’t mean we can’t do these ceremonies here today and speak our language,” Mr Nelson said.
“We do this every day to pass that story on, that tradition on.”
Passing on a connection to their country would empower young people to
Aunty Lyn Warren, stood beside councillors, city planners and other local dignitaries at the Bendigo event, was in Parliament House 10 years ago to hear former prime minister Kevin Rudd deliver his apology.
She said it was special to share the occasion with Aboriginal people from all over Australia.
“Everyone was there for the same reason,” she said.
As a young girl, Ms Warren’s father took her away from her mother. She was only reunited with her Aboriginal family in recent years, on the insistence of her late husband.
The apology was a significant stepping stone towards righting past wrongs, she said.
“It was so significant, and it won’t fix everything, but it is a start.”
The same sentiment was shared by Mr Nelson.
“It’s not the end, we’re not going to say, ‘Well, that’s good, we’ll move on’,” Mr Nelson said.
“The government needs to do more for our people, they need to understand one word doesn’t fix all of our problems.”
Councillor Rod Fyffe and Dja Dja Wurrung woman Racquel Kerr also addressed attendees, as did staff members from the Bendigo District Aboriginal Co-operative.