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.”
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'."
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.
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.
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