Newsletter Subscribe
Australian Catholics Subscribe

Catholic Teacher blog: National Sorry Day

Fr Andrew Hamilton  |  09 May 2018

The theme of National Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June) this year is ‘Don’t keep history a mystery’.

The week itself is full of history. National Sorry Day is 26 May and the next day (27 May) is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum that allowed Indigenous Australians to be counted in the Census. And 3 June was the day of the handing down of the 1992 Mabo decision that established the Indigenous rights to land title.

National Sorry Day recalls not an event but a continuing scandal:  the long history of the Stolen Generations, the Indigenous children who were stripped away from their parents.

For Indigenous Australians, as for all peoples who have suffered from discrimination and exclusion, history is important. For the Jewish people of Jesus’ time grappling with the period spent in Egypt as slaves and later in Babylon as exiles was central to their story.  At the centre of their faith and ritual was the action God took in freeing them from Egypt and leading them into the Promised Land. Similarly, for Christians Jesus’ death and rising from the dead to free us from sin and death lie at the heart of our faith. That is why Jews and Christians spend so much time remembering their history.

This is true also of Indigenous Australians. The central events of their recent history are of being driven off the land of which they had been part for thousands of years. Their loss is crystallised in the story of the stolen generations. So much was stolen from them in the arrival of the European settlers – land, camping grounds, sacred sites, access to food, culture, their numbering among Australians. And to cap it all, their children were also stolen.

This history is the inheritance of Indigenous workers and of the Indigenous young people. They bear in their lives its marks, as we all bear the marks of our history. For all of us it is a spur to make the future one of reconciliation.

Our shared history, of course, has also included moments of recognition and of restoration.  Among these were the vote to recognise them in the Australian Census, the Mabo decision that recognised their original title to the land, and the Apology to the Stolen Generations. These events had mainly symbolic value, but they also encouraged Indigenous Australians to press for recognition in Australian institutions of their unique status in Australia. The challenge they have faced is to educate an Australian public that prefers not to be reminded of the wrongs Indigenous Australians have suffered or of the need for reconciliation.

For these reasons it is important for all Australians not to keep our history a mystery. Catholics, for whom God’s action in our world is a mystery that draws us beyond what we can understand or hope for, are invited to allow history to be a mystery in the full sense of the word. It is more than a dry recital of dates, places and events. It is the story of humanity that makes a claim on us all – of good and evil, of suffering and resilience, of crime and reconciliation, of contempt and respect.  This story takes us beyond what we can measure to what as Australians we value.  

Image: Butupa – Sorry Day 2015


Topic tags: socialjustice-australia, indigenousaustralians

Request permissions to reuse this article

Similar articles

Catholic Teacher blog: Prayer for Creation

Fr Andrew Hamilton | 15 Aug 2018

dandelionWith the nomination of 1 September as a day of prayer for creation, Pope Francis wanted to enlist Catholics into a universal movement of passionate concern for the environment.

Home in Australia

Jesuit Refugee Service | 09 Aug 2018

For Ahmed, Noor and their children, this year’s Refugee and Migrant Sunday will be special as they begin a new stage in their life in Australia.

Catholic Teacher blog: Food that will last

Nathan Ahearne | 31 Jul 2018

eucharist - bread and wineJesus offers us 'food that will last' – food that will continue to nourish and sustain our work in Catholic schools.

Catholic Teacher blog: Digital citizenship – the opportunities

Tania James | 25 Jul 2018

As responsible digital citizens, how do we ‘do good?’. The second and final part of the Catholic Teacher blog on digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship through a Catholic lens – the challenges

Tania James | 12 Jul 2018

The most basic definition of digital citizenship is ‘being good’ online, but the term encompasses much more than that. It covers numerous online topics including plagiarism, copyright and authoring issues. Part one of a two-part look into the challenges and opportunities of being online.           


This website uses cookies to give you the best, most relevant experience.

Using this website means you are okay with this.

You can change your cookies settings at any time and find out more about them by following this link