Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the Indigenous people who were members of the Stolen Generation and their families on Wednesday in Parliament. The speech, which has been described as a significant event in Australia’s history, was televised live to cities all over Australia.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International said that the organisation is greatly encouraged by the Australian Government’s decision to make a formal apology one of its first priorities.
“We hope this gesture will be a symbolic end to the tragic legacy of horrific treatment of Aboriginal children, and the first step towards addressing the serious human rights violations Indigenous Australians face every day," said Rodney Dillon, Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International's Australian Section.
“An apology will help develop respect and establish meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and is essential to reconciliation.
“We are calling on the Australian Government to now implement the recommendations in the Bringing Them Home report. Restitution, rehabilitation, guarantees against repetition and compensation are critical next steps.”
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) outlined 54 recommendations in the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, as a result of its enquiry into the removal of Indigenous children from their families. It found between 1 and 3 in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from between 1910 and 1970. Many were sexually, physically and mentally abused.
The report’s recommendations are supported by international law, which provides that, where a person’s human rights have been violated, they must have access to an "effective remedy".
Amnesty International staff and activists this week took part in commemorations around the country in solidarity with all Indigenous Australians.