Transcript: The National Apology, courtesy of Reconciliation Australia

Video length: 5 minutes, 49 seconds

Speakers: Ms Shelley Reys AO. Features excerpts from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's speech

Narrator: February the 13th, 2008 was an incredible moment in Australian history. A day in which the nation stopped, joined together, to acknowledge the suffering of Indigenous Australians. The day the Prime Minister said "Sorry" on behalf of the Australian Parliament. It was a day we recognised mistakes of the past and resolved that these mistakes would never happen again.

Man: God bless you Prime Minister

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: Thank you

Man: Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart.

Shelley Reys: An apology is not the panacea; it’s not the one stop shop that means that everything’s going to be fine. But what it is, is a great foundation or stepping stone in to making these things more possible. It gives us a chance to think about possibilities of what we can achieve beyond this point.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: You’ve come all the way from the Alice? Well thank you for being here. Good to see you’ve got your Canberra jumper on.


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: To the Stolen Generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry. And I offer you this apology without qualification. We apologise for the hurt, the pain and the suffering we the Parliament have caused you by the laws previous Parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, humiliation and degradation these laws embodied. We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments. So let us turn this page together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Government and Opposition, Commonwealth and State, and write this new chapter in our nation’s story together.

Shelley Reys: You could hear a pin drop. It was electrifying that atmosphere and I remember a journalist asking me an hour later, "What was it like in there? Can you describe it?" And the singular word I could think of, there was no other way to describe it, it was 'electrifying' and once it all had unfolded ... and then of course the tears and more tears and more tears and more tears. The crying has never stopped. It’s like, it was just the beginning of a huge… breath, you know, an exhale of relief and emotion that still hasn’t stopped.

To people like me and there’s a lot of people out there like me who weren’t personally stolen or taken away from their families. But their ancestors were, my grandmother was and it’s because of that, that I no longer have my language. I no longer am familiar with some of the basics about culture. Those stories have stopped. So for me personally, I feel like the apology is, not just one for my family and the families of the past, but it’s also for those of us who mourn the things that we’ve lost, that make up a part of who we are.