June 4 - 10  2023: Issue 586


Sorry Day In Pittwater 2023 + THE VOICE Information Program + Website Launched

On Sunday May 28th 2023 the Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater held their annual Sorry Day in and around the Mona Vale Memorial Hall.

Greens Councillor Miranda Korzy, who attended the event, stated it was a lovely afternoon with a great feel. Her photos run this page of the components

This yearly event hosted by the ASGMWP provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to come together and have a yarn, the way it should be.

The Program for the Day included a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country by Neil Evers and Laurie Bimson.

One minute silence was held to remember the Stolen Generation.

Uncle Neil Evers explained to those gathered:

''National Sorry Day is recognised as a National Day of Commemoration and Remembrance. This is a day to come together for a Day of Healing.

In 1994 legal action was commenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales against the removal of the generations of Aboriginal children, as a result of the Forced Removal Policies. These children who were removed came to be known as the Stolen Generations.

The first Sorry Day was held on 26th May 1998. Why the 26th? In 1997 on the 26th of May the Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child from their families, was tabled in Federal Parliament.

The Report was called The Bringing Them Home report; it revealed the extent of the Forced Removal Policies, which went on for 150 years into the early 1980s. The Report revealed the devastating effects of these policies in terms of spiritual, emotional and physical trauma, a result from the broken connection to traditional land, culture and language, the separation of families and the effect it had on these children’s parenting skills.

The release of the findings of this Report had a profound effect on the Australian public. The Bringing Them Home report sold more copies than any comparable report. The Report detailed the unquestionable evidence - about the forced removal of thousands of Indigenous children from their families and communities.

Most of us here are parents or grandparents - Can we truly understand how it must have been for the parents?

I’d like to share with you some of these reports.

The Bringing Them Home Report stated:

Nationally we can conclude with confidence that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970. In certain regions and in certain periods the figure was undoubtedly much greater than one in ten. In that time not one family has escaped the effects of forcible removal (confirmed by representatives of the Queensland and WA Governments in evidence to the Inquiry). Most families have been affected, in one or more generations, by the forcible removal of one or more children.

The report closely examined the distinctions between "forcible removal", "removal under threat or duress", "official deception", "uninformed voluntary release", and "voluntary release". The evidence indicated that in a large number of cases children were brutally and forcibly removed from their parent or parents, possibly even from the hospital shortly after their birth. Aboriginal Protection Officers often made the judgement on removal. In some cases, families were required to sign legal documents to relinquish care to the state. In Western Australia, the Aborigines Act 1905 removed the legal guardianship of Aboriginal parents and made their children all legal wards of the state, so no parental permission was required.

The Bringing Them Home report acknowledged that 'Indigenous children have been forcibly separated from their families and communities since the very First Days of the European occupation of Australia' by governments and missionaries. In 1998 Sydney saw the first Sorry Day - now it’s commemorated nationally with thousands of Australians from all walks of life participating in meetings like this one here today.

It’s where we come together, in a day of Healing to honour the Stolen Generations. Because - Together - we CAN- make a difference. ''

There was a Didgeridoo playing + Clap Sticks outside Hall and the Pymble Ladies College Aboriginal girls dancing.

The amazing voice of Aleta Wassell mesmerised those gathered.

There was Afternoon Tea, Coffee, Damper, Kangaroo rissoles and more.

Everyone was then invited inside hall to look at displays and do crafts. Youngsters had Boomerangs to paint with the help from the Biala Girls. There was colouring in for the younger ones. Everything provided.

There was also traditional Weaving with Auntie Karleen Green. Visitors could also learn more from an Aboriginal Artefacts display, more about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Everyone could listen to the Didge playing and Aleta singing more beautiful songs. There was a reading from Aunty Nancy’s Book of Poems. A show and tell of what the children had done with their Boomerang painting, and even a small gift to take home.

Wakehurst MP Michael Regan attended the afternoon and this week paid tribute to Aleta in the NSW Parliament through a Community Recognition Statement.

Mr Regan stated; 

''During Reconciliation Week I extend heartfelt recognition and appreciation to an exceptional member of our community, Aleta Wassell. Aleta, a local Indigenous artist, has made an indelible mark on our community through her extraordinary design of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 2023 Indigenous Round jersey. That jersey not only captures the essence of our nation's rich Indigenous heritage but also embodies the spirit of unity and community that is so integral to our reconciliation journey. Aleta's vision was to create a design that resonated with every individual, regardless of their background, and she has succeeded in doing so spectacularly. Aleta's commitment to ensuring that the jersey truly reflects our community is commendable. 

It is crucial that we acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of individuals like Aleta Wassell, who use their artistic talent and cultural knowledge to foster understanding, respect and unity. And she can sing. I express my deepest gratitude to Aleta for her remarkable artistic contribution to our community. May we all be inspired by Aleta's dedication and continue to work together to build a future that embraces reconciliation, inclusivity and harmony.''

On Friday June 2nd, at the end of Reconciliation Week 2023, the National Indigenous Australians Agency sent Pittwater Online a reminder that the Australian Government has launched an information program to help inform Australians about the Voice referendum being held later this year.

The referendum is about whether we should change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

The information program encourages Australians to get ready for a conversation about the Voice by visiting Voice.gov.au.

There are a wide range of resources available on the website to help you learn more about the Voice, including translated materials and dedicated resources for First Nations audiences. Additional resources are also available in accessible formats such as Auslan interpreted videos. 

On May 31st 2023, the Constitution Alteration Bill was passed by the House of Representatives without amendment. 

It will be debated in the Senate from 13 June 2023.

The Bill sets out the proposed change to the Constitution that Australians will be asked about in the upcoming referendum.  It was introduced into Parliament and referred to the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum on 30 March 2023.

The Committee published 270 submissions, and heard from 70 witnesses. It published its report on May 12th 2023, recommending Parliament pass the Bill without amendments. There were also two dissenting reports, and two sets of additional comments.

The Government tabled its response to the Committee’s report on 24th of May 2023. The response accepts the Committee’s recommendation to pass the Bill. It also responds to the dissenting reports and additional comments.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights also examined the Bill and issued a report on the 9th of May 2023. The report concluded that the Bill was compatible with human rights, including the right to equality and non-discrimination.

Updates on the progress of the Bill are available on the Parliament of Australia website. 

If you know someone who would also like to be updated on the Voice and referendum, please encourage them to sign up for email updates at https://voice.gov.au/

Some of Cr. Korzy's photos from Sorry Day 2023 in Pittwater: