GOORENG Gooreng elders say cultural awareness needs to infiltrate everyday society for reconciliation to progress.

On the sixth anniversary of Kevin Rudd's formal apology to the traditional land owners of Australia and to the Stolen Generation, they are reflecting on how reconciliation must continue.

On February 13, 2008, former Prime Minister Rudd issued a formal apology in the House of Representatives acknowledging wrongdoings of previous administrations.

The speech apologised for laws and policies of successive parliaments which inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss.

"We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country," he said.

"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

"And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry."

The journey towards reconciliation gained great momentum in the two decades between 1988-2008, yet those most affected say there are still huge progressions to be made.

We are still as a people, being ignored.


Twenty years earlier, under the leadership of Bob Hawke, Australians and Aborigines were promised a treaty within the life of the standing parliament. It is a treaty that has not come to fruition.

Aunty Jacqui said the most evident areas that continued to suffer in Gladstone and across the country were education, employment and equity.

"We want to start businesses, but we don't have access to the money," she said.

"The years have gone by but children are still being taken away from us, removed from their bloodlines. We apply for jobs with all of these big companies on the island and are ignored. We are still as a people, being ignored."

Aunty Jacqui affirmed the formal apology was a significant impetus towards an institutionalised approach to revealing the truth of Australia's history, yet little had changed since 2008.

Why we need a vision

"I FEEL for those people who have had to flee their country and come to Australia," Aunty Julri said.

"But we were taken from our own country, and indoctrinated in another world. We are still yearning for our land."

The hurt and suffering is still very real for sisters Aunty Jacqui and Julri, who hold hope for the enduring legacy of their people, Gooreng Gooreng.

Recalling upon the time of the Stolen Generation, the sisters can remember their father facing a threat of removal, for simply questioning authorities.

"Some were taken, some came back, most didn't," Aunty Julri said.

"Now a lot of our kids are leaving town and their country because people out of town and from overseas are taking all of the jobs."

Statistics reveal there are more indigenous incarcerations now than in 2008, with an indigenous individual 12 times more likely than a non-indigenous person to be imprisoned in Australia.

The sisters said they were worried for the future of their displaced people, as a result of lack of employment opportunities in Gladstone.

"We, as a country, still have a lot of learning to do," Aunty Jacqui said.

"Elders are holding our people together.

"We need cultural awareness to begin at Prep age, and inductions held for staff. Without a vision the people will perish."