Sorry isn't enough: Stolen Generations call for action

Arrernte man William Tilmouth was just a little boy when he was taken from his parents - both also survivors of the Stolen Generations.

He was moved to Croker Island, 250km off the coast of Darwin, where he lived and attended school with other Aboriginal children stolen from their families.

From the mid-1800s until the 1970s, many Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families through government policies.

Tuesday marks the anniversary of the national apology to the Stolen Generations by then-prime minister Kevin Rudd on February 13, 2008. 

Mr Tilmouth, who chairs First Nations not-for-profit Children’s Ground, is using the anniversary to call for action, as the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care continues to grow.

“At the age of five my mother passed away and welfare swooped,” he said.

“The light-skin ones went south and the dark-skin ones went north and that was the conveyor belt. 

"My life from then was institutionalised.” 

Anthony Albanese at the National Apology Anniversary breakfast
Anthony Albanese praised the courage of the Stolen Generations.

Indigenous business Message Stick organised a breakfast on Tuesday at Parliament House to commemorate the apology, including screening a pre-recorded speech from Mr Rudd.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the day of the apology was his proudest as a parliamentarian.

"Courage is what we saw in every member of the Stolen Generations who came here that day and faced the very institution that had failed you and failed you profoundly," he told the audience.

 "Alongside your courage, you showed us grace, almost beyond imagining.

"Perhaps most importantly, you showed us that when we have an honest reckoning of the past, we give ourselves a better future and a big part of that is the healing that began 16 years ago with just one word - 'sorry'."

Kevin Rudd delivered a national apology to Stolen Generations.
Kevin Rudd delivered the national apology in 2008.

First Nations kids are 10.5 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.

“The statistics are damning. It just keeps going in the same direction,” Mr Tilmouth said.

“The system is stuck at the crisis-driven end, as opposed to prevention. 

“We do not want to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, downstream. We want to be working upstream preventing the crisis before it can occur.”

Mr Tilmouth and other Indigenous leaders want all governments to rethink the way they do business with First Nations people, communities and organisations.

2008 national apology to Stolen Generations.
It's been 16 years since the national apology.

Members of the Stolen Generations attended the breakfast along with their families and supporters, including a delegation from Knowmore Legal Services.

Knowmore provides free and independent legal advice for survivors of child sexual abuse and has been helping people with the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme, which offers financial and wellbeing support to survivors removed from the Northern Territory, ACT and Jervis Bay.

Knowmore representative Gary Oliver pointed out the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care had skyrocketed since the apology.

"When you say sorry, it means you don't do it again, but there's been a repeat," he said.

Knowmore Elder in residence Aunty Glendra Stubbs said the apology was a memorable moment, but more needed to be done to help communities deal with intergenerational trauma.

"When I go to court and I see a whole heap of young people, who have been in out of home care, they've had to steal food because no one is caring for them - the department and the state have been very bad parents," she said.

The Healing Foundation, which helps the Stolen Generations and their families, is also calling for adequate compensation for survivors in their lifetime, as a matter of urgency.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store