two events have their anniversary in May, and it’s a good opportunity to refresh your knowledge about them.
National Sorry Day
The Bringing Them Home Report about the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families (see one of the previous emails I sent you) recommended that a National Sorry Day be held each year on 26 May “to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects.”
The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, which was one year after the tabling of the Report.
National Sorry Day is a day to remember the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. A chance for all Australians to recognise the pain thousands of Aboriginal people went through. The children affected are now known as the Stolen Generations.
The first ‘Sorry Day’ was marked by hundreds of activities around the country. The Australian federal government does not take part in ‘Sorry Day’, saying people who removed Aboriginal children thought they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past. Over 1 million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books speak a different language.
In response to former Prime Minister John Howard’s refusal to apologise (which was another recommendation of the Report), a popular movement evolved to celebrate Sorry Day in the absence of formal political recognition from the government.
Sorry Day also marks the start of Reconciliation Week. This year’s theme is “Our History, Our Story, Our Future”.
Little known fact
Since 2003 Aboriginal Canadians celebrate their National Day of Healing and Reconciliation (NDHR) also on May 26. Canadians chose the same day “to honour the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal Australians as well as the children who attended Indian Residential Schools in Canada”.
The 1967 Referendum
Many Australians get the facts wrong about the referendum, held on 27 May 1967:
The 1967 Referendum proposed to include Aboriginal people in the census.
The 1967 Referendum proposed to allow the Commonwealth government to make laws for Aboriginal people.
It was not about Aboriginal people’s right to vote (introduced in 1962) or granting them citizenship (most of the discriminating laws had already been repealed) or equal rights for Aboriginal people.
Two sections of the Constitution discriminated against Aboriginal people.
Section 51 covers legislative powers of the parliament. It details for which areas the parliament can make laws. Before the referendum it read:
“51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: [...] The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.” (my emphasis)
The second section of the Constitution that referred to Aboriginal people was section 127 which tells about who is to be counted as part of the population of the Commonwealth:
“127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.” (my emphasis)
The referendum was held on 27 May 27 1967. 9.23% Australians voted “No” and 90.77% “Yes”, the highest such vote in history on any Commonwealth referendum to-date.
But it was not all rosy. Read why the 1967 Referendum failed.
Winter is coming & time for a movie! Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?
PS: Who else would like this information? Let’s forward it to a friend?