From the National Sorry Day Committee:
The National Sorry Day Committee has decided on a radical new step. We have decided that Sorry Day, 26 May, should become a National Day of Healing – for all Australians.
Sorry Day has been the annual focus of the Journey of Healing for the stolen generations. That Journey will go on until the Bringing Them Home report is implemented wholeheartedly. We cannot stop while several thousand Indigenous people are still searching for family members from whom they were separated.
But the stolen generations cannot heal in isolation. Their healing depends on, and contributes to, healing among the wider Indigenous community. And healing among Indigenous Australians depends on, and contributes to, healing in the non-Indigenous community.
The healing needed in the Indigenous community is clear to anyone who saw the agony of spirit which made Michael Long walk to Canberra last December to ask help with ‘the tragedy that is destroying my people’.
So far we have not seen much response to his plea. Non-Indigenous Australia seems unable to feel the pain of Indigenous people. As any doctor knows, a person who cannot feel is diseased, and the disease must be diagnosed and cured.
The National Day of Healing is aimed at diagnosis and at cure. We need to understand why Indigenous culture is unable to thrive alongside Western culture in Australia. The stolen generations have shared their stories on Sorry Days, and that has opened the eyes of many to our history. Now more of us need to follow their lead.
If healing is to come, it will come through a grass-roots movement of people who feel each other’s pain across the gulfs which divide us, and commit themselves to work for justice. The National Day of Healing aims to help build that movement.
Ray Minniecon, Gillian Brannigan
Co-chairs, National Sorry Day Committee
(Source http://www.alphalink.com.au/~rez/Journey/ accessed at time of this report; no longer available, but see for example – https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2005/182/10/indigenous-health-partners-healing)
Several hundred people gathered at Federation Square when the newly-renamed National Day of Healing – Sorry Day – was marked with film, speakers, music, poetry, theatre and dance, as well as the traditional welcome to country and smoking ceremony and wreath-laying.
While people were slowly gathering the big screen showed “Sorry-Proof country”, a genuinely scathing indictment of the Howard Government’s behaviour towards Indigenous people, especially in respect to the stolen generation – ‘the failed attempt at genocide’. The Welcome to Country was performed by Aunty Joy Murphy on behalf of the Wurundjeri people and Aunty Carolyn Briggs for the Boonerwrung people of the Kulin nation. Aunty Joy also performed the smoking ceremony, assisted by Robbie Thorpe – and the MFB. (St John’s Ambulance Brigade were also on hand apparently …) The many speakers included Richard Frankland and Merran Edwards, herself removed from her mother at birth and adopted into a non-Indigenous family in Geelong – far from her birth-place in central Australia. The theatre group ‘Obituary’ – Tammy Anderson and Tony Briggs – gave a dramatic reading of a ‘case history’, a mother and son about to be reunited after 26 years, and David Dryden gave an awesome display of the power of the didjeridu to evoke scenes and emotions. Towards midday people began to move towards Swanston Street for a ‘walk’- not a ‘march’ – up to Bourke Street and so to Parliament House, led by the group of Indigenous dancers – there were chants of ‘Howard is a Coward’ and ‘Howard’s a Coward, Say Sorry Howard’, as well as others less polite. At each intersection along Bourke Street there was a pause to form a circle around the dancers, and at Parliament House the smoking ceremonmy was resumed. Here again a minute’s silence was observed out of respect for the departed. Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings was perhaps unfairly heckled by some in the crowd who seemed to treat him as substitute for Howard, but people’s patience was also a bit strained by the unavailability of power for the PA system, which meant that speakers were hard to hear, especially over the clatter of passing trams. Proceedings here ended about 12.30, but some in the crowd were intending to carry on to Billabong Park in Collingwood for more activities in honour of the day…
The Journey of Healing/Sorry Day banner draped across the front of the stage:
Richard Frankland, wearing a t-shirt from 3KND: ‘We will not be silent about what you have done to us. We will not go away. We are here for ever. These scars on the nation’s soul can only be healed when the John Howards of the world stand aside…’
Closeup of 3KND t-shirt:
Merran Edwards had a message for the Prime Minister: ‘We Indigenous people have done a lot of healing in our own country over many years, are you able to begin a healing within your own heart [and] all Australians’? Are you willing to create a National Day of Healing, a day when all Australians […] recognise the past painful history that all Indigenous people of this country have suffered?’
There was a large group from Collingwood College, and their banners took pride of place in the walk:
Part of the walk leaving Federation Square:
Collingwood again, but you can just make out the Quakers and Good Shepherd in the background…