National Sorry Day 2017

Article | Updated 12 months ago

This year’s National Sorry Day on the 26th May 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the handing down of the Bringing Them Home Report, which was a report of the National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families.

The report was conducted by the Human rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and released in April 1997. This report highlighted the past practice of removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, now known as the Stolen Generation. 

WA Museum Aboriginal Advisory Committee Chairperson, Irene Stainton, who was part of the executive team of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, (SNAICC) led the inquiry which resulted in the Bringing them Home Report.

Irene said that she participated as an Executive Member of SNAICC on a personal level, as a child of a removed person. “My mother was removed and I knew how difficult that experience had been for her. Not being able to see her family and essentially being closer to her “home brothers and sisters”, thus being the children at Sister Kate’s Children’s Home”.

The Report made 54 recommendations to address the issues affecting those who were removed, of course not all of these recommendations have been met, and as Irene said, “much has been achieved since the findings of the National Enquiry were release, however, due to the generational harm which has occurred, there is still much to do, especially in the areas of awareness raising, culturally acceptable counselling and easily accessible services to assist people to trace their family history”.

Sorry Day is a time to pay respect and acknowledge the many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were taken away. The WA Museum would like to acknowledge the Stolen Generation and to say Sorry for the past injustices Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples faced during this time.

Sea of hands created for National Sorry Day

Sea of hands created for National Sorry Day
Image copyright WA Museum


Indigenous Australian Flags

The following information has been sourced from NAIDOC.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag

The Australian Aboriginal Flag

The Australian Aboriginal Flag
Image courtesy NAIDOC 

The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas. It was first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide on 12 July 1971, which was National Aborigines Day.It became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra after it was first flown there in 1972. Since then, it has become a widely recognised symbol of the unity and identity of Aboriginal people.

The Aboriginal flag is divided horizontally into halves. The top half is black and the lower half red. There is a yellow circle in the centre of the flag.

The meanings of the three colours in the flag, as stated by Harold Thomas, are:

Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia

Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector

Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land

The Torres Strait Islander Flag

The Torres Strait Islander Flag

The Torres Strait Islander Flag
Image courtesy NAIDOC

The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders. Adopted in 1992, it was the winning entry in a design competition run by the Island Coordinating Council, a Queensland statutory body representing the community councils in the Torres Strait.

The Torres Strait Islander flag has three horizontal panels, with green at the top and bottom and blue in between. These panels are divided by thin black lines. A white Dhari (traditional headdress) sits in the centre, with a five-pointed white star beneath it.

The meanings of the colours in the flag are:

Green – represents the land

Black – represents the Indigenous peoples

Blue - represents the sea

White – represents peace

The Dhari represents Torres Strait Islander people and the five-pointed star represents the five island groups within the Torres Strait. The star is also a symbol for seafaring people as it is used in navigation.