We thank Prime Minister Rudd and the Commonwealth Parliament for making a national apology to the Stolen Generations, their families, and communities. This apology spoke to our hunger for healing and for reconciliation.
The apology in itself does not alter the conditions of poverty and marginalisation of many Indigenous Australians, but it helps us know how to go forward in a respectful manner. The truth has a way of setting us free and the apology will become a source of strength for action.
Acknowledging the painful truth of the past, members of Australia's religious congregations want to move forward. The time is now.
We commit ourselves to giving flesh and bones to the spirit of the apology. We want to make sure that such injustices of the past cannot happen again. We want to help all those who were harmed to find healing and wholeness. We want to do what we can to help the Stolen Generations to find the track home.
The past cannot be changed, but it must not be forgotten. Many of our communities are engaged in education of the young. By teaching young people honestly about the past we enable them to understand their responsibilities in the present, and in the future.
While many of our schools already include substantive modules on the history and continuing effects of forcible removal, we will ensure that we continue to help our students to know the truth about our past.
In our health, education, aged care, social services, and pastoral works, many staff and volunteers come into contact with Indigenous children, families and communities. We will provide our people with more opportunities for training in cross cultural awareness which includes understanding the history and continuing effects of forcible removal. Without respect and understanding, our efforts to be of service may be inappropriate, and even cause harm to those we would serve.
Some of our congregations were involved in the placement and care of children who had been removed from their families and communities, or in the administration of dormitory systems on missions which also separated children and their families. We will preserve any existing records and provide appropriate access to them. We will continue to support Link-Up services and assist people trying to find their relatives.
We are committed to supporting the campaign to close the scandalous gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy. We are still learning about the impact on Indigenous health of the forcible removals. We hope that such research and the dialogue that it involves will help us to find more effective ways of responding to the truth of our history.
As it is time for this country to build new relationships and to be open to future possibilities, we commit ourselves to deep, on-going dialogue with our Indigenous sisters and brothers on further ways of moving forward.
Father Mark Raper SJ
Catholic Religious Australia
Issued Thursday, May 15, 2008