National Sorry Day

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National Sorry Day
Also called Sorry Day
Observed by Australia
Type Cultural
Significance Remember and commemorate the mistreatment of Australia's indigenous population
Date 26 May
Next time 26 May 2017 (2017-05-26)
Frequency annual
First time 26 May 1998 (1998-05-26)

National Sorry Day is an annual event that has been held in Australia on 26 May, since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country's indigenous population. During the 20th century, Australian governments' policies resulted in a "Stolen Generation" – described by John Torpey as "Aboriginal children separated, often forcibly, from their families in the interest of turning them into white Australians".[1]

On 26 May 1997, the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament. The date 26 May carries great significance for the Stolen Generations, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and its supporters among non-indigenous Australians.


An older indigenous protest day is the Day of Mourning, which originated in 1938, focusing on land loss and mistreatment.

A commemorative poster from 2008

The 1997 Bringing Them Home report recommended that the Prime Minister apologise to the Stolen Generation. Prime Minister John Howard refused to do so, stating that he "did not subscribe to the black armband view of history".[2]

On 26 August 1998, Prime Minister John Howard moved a Motion of Reconciliation, which included an expression of "deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices". The opposition leader Kim Beazley moved to replace John Howard's motion of regret with an unreserved apology which was not successful.[3]

In response, a popular movement evolved to celebrate "sorry day" in the absence of formal political recognition from the conservative government.

The annual commemorations are intended to raise awareness among politicians, policy makers, and the wider public about the forcible removal policies and their impact on the children that were taken, their families and their communities.

On 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a motion of Apology to the Indigenous Australian "Stolen Generation".[4] The apology was the new parliament's first order of business; Kevin Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to publicly apologize to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian federal government.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Torpey, John C. (2006). Making Whole What Has Been Smashed: On Reparations Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780674019430. 
  2. ^ McKenna, Dr Mark (10 November 1997). "Different Perspectives on Black Armband History". Parliament of Australia Parliamentary Library. Retrieved 2 November 2006. 
  3. ^ "House of representatives Hansard Thursday 26 August 1999" (PDF). Parliament of Australia Hansard. 26 August 1999. p. 152. Retrieved 4 November 2006. 
  4. ^ "Official Australian Government Website – Sorry Day and the Stolen Generation". Australian Government. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 

External links[edit]