Apology was a step towards healing, says Wiradjuri elder

Wiradjuri elder Aunty Kath Withers believes the government’s apology to the Stolen Generations has made a difference, but “there is still a lot of work to be done”.

Aunty Kath was reflecting on the 10 years since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the official apology to Aboriginal people.

A ceremony to mark the anniversary was held at Wagga’s Marrambidya Wetland Healing Place on Tuesday.

“I think there is still a lot of work to be done, but the apology was a very important step towards healing,” Aunty Kath said.

“It’s affected generations. There are 17,000 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care at the moment and that’s more than there’s ever been. That needs to be worked on.

“There’s more of our people in jails and institutions that there has ever been.

“You’ve got to start somewhere. There’s more emphasis now on reconciliation.”

Aunty Kath believes one recent improvement was a greater emphasis on the importance of education for young indigenous people.

“We’ve got to get our young people to Year 12 and then into more education, like university.

Aunty Kath is also keen to see indigenous heritage preserved.

"It’s important people know that we had a Wiradjuri language, and we had traditions,” she said.

Layhnee Kearnes, school captain at Mount Austin High School, told the gathering that “Sorry Day to me is to acknowledge and recognise members of the Stolen Generations”.

“It is also a day to give people a chance to come together and share their steps towards healing for the Stolen Generations, their families and communities,” she said.

Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey said Tuesday also marked the second anniversary of the official launch of the Marrambidya Wetland Healing Place.

“Fittingly this site provides a symbolic location to reflect on the wrongs of the past, acknowledge the strength of our elders and celebrate the rich history of our Aboriginal people,” he said.

“The city of Wagga is unreserved in its commitment to our Aboriginal community and sees key events such Apology Day as integral to strengthening the bonds between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community.”