Council marks decade since historic apology

Photo: Melinda Jane
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A didgeridoo has lead a mayoral march into Penrith City Council Chambers to mark the 10 year anniversary of the historic National Apology Day.

Aboriginal Liaison Officer at ‎Penrith City Council, Carolyn Gartside, spoke to the Weekender about what the apology means to the local community.

While her father and grandmother had both passed when the apology was delivered, Ms Gartside remembers it vividly.

“I was down in Canberra because of my grandmother who was taken when she was young,” she said.

“I went down there to represent my grandmother’s voice and it was very emotional.

“There is still a lot of work to be done.”

At the ceremony, attendees were blessed with a traditional Torres Strait Islander hymn and embraced one minute of silence to remember both the children who returned home and those who did not.

With the third highest Aboriginal populated area in NSW, it’s important that the Penrith community and Council work together to go beyond symbolic gestures and into practical applications and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“People are still finding each other, so that’s a sad theme, but it’s also good,” Ms Gartside said.

“It’s something that should never be forgotten in Australian history.”

Photo: Melinda Jane

The ceremony was held in Council Chambers in a move to encourage the community to find their voice as they remember the 10th anniversary of the apology.

“A lot of Aboriginal people don’t come into Chambers,” Ms Gartside said.

“It’s really good to encourage people to come into chambers, this is where the decisions are made about this local community, and this is where you have your voice.”

Penrith Mayor John Thain said acknowledging the day is a vital part of the healing journey.

Councillor Karen McKeown, who instigated a Council event 10 years ago during the national apology, donned the colours of the Aboriginal flag to pay her respects.

“I knew it would be a momentous occasion, I knew we had to mark it in some way because we have such a strong tradition with our Aboriginal people here,” she said.

“I am glad that the city celebrates Aboriginal people and we recognise the injustices that have happened, we acknowledge them and say sorry.”

The apology was made a decade ago in relation to past laws, policies and practices which impacted on Australia’s First Nations Peoples, while acknowledging the pain and suffering inflicted on Stolen Generations members, their families and communities.

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