Sorry Day is a day for reflection on large issues.

Particularly the often complex relationship between Indigenous Australians and those who later occupied the land. But Sorry Day also recalls specific events in the history of that relationship.

The day remembers the publication of the report on the Stolen Generations on 26 May, 1997, and the refusal of the then Prime Minister to apologise for what had happened. Sorry Day began as a day in which people could press for a public apology to all those affected by the systematic taking of children away from their parents. That goal was reached when Prime Minister Rudd, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, apologised in Parliament.

But Sorry Day continues because Indigenous communities are often vulnerable in their relationships with other Australians, and particularly with the Governments who make decisions about their lives. Today’s actions give birth to tomorrow’s apologies. Sorry Day is a time for stock taking.

This Sorry Day we might reflect on the faltering movement to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. We can also reflect on the alarming growth in the number of Indigenous Australians incarcerated, and the growing gap between their incarceration and that of other Australians. The decision to withdraw funding from Indigenous Australians in remote communities in Western Australia, and its contemplation in other parts of Australia without consultation of the communities shows how vulnerable Indigenous communities can be. In addition, Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by mining projects.

Sorry Day invites a reading of the national pulse and an assessment of relationship between Indigenous Australians and later Australians. At Jesuit Social Services, we are committed to the principle that Indigenous Australians, like others have a right to share responsibility for the decisions that affect their lives. They must share in the making of policy about matters that concern them, and not simply be treated as objects of policy made by others.

– Andy Hamilton SJ