TEN years ago to the day, Aunty Rhonda Collard-Spratt was sitting in the public gallery at Canberra.
She witnessed then-prime minister Kevin Rudd apologise to all Indigenous Australians and the Stolen Generations for the "profound grief, suffering and loss” caused by previous governments.
For Aunty Rhonda, who was taken from her Aboriginal family at the age of three, the apology held special significance.
"It was amazing to see a prime minister who had the guts and courage to apologise for past policies which had a tremendous effect on our people,” she said.
"The trauma still lives with us today. What you suffer as a child stays with you for ever.
"The emotional wounds take for ever to heal, but the apology was a stepping stone in my healing process, and my sister's (Debbie) as well because she was only a baby when she was taken.”
The University of Southern Queensland hosted a National Apology event at its Springfield campus yesterday.
Aunty Rhonda, a Yamatji and Noongar woman who now lives in Ipswich, reinforced the importance of the apology. She said in an impassioned speech to the crowd gathered in the auditorium that it was part of the journey towards healing.
"We are only here on the strength of our ancestors. We are standing on their shoulders so we need to thank them for our survival today,” she said.
"We all belong to this land and we all need to find our voice and speak out because our ancestors don't want us to be silent.
"They would want us to find the strength and courage to speak the truth, but speak from a place of courage and wisdom, not anger.”
Head of USQ's College for Indigenous Studies, Education and Research (CISER) Professor Tracey Bunda said events such as the National Apology, National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week benefit the entire Australian community.
"Ten years on from the apology, Australia is still coming to terms with parts of its history,” she said.
"It's together at events such as this that we can foster the types of conversations that we need to have before we can properly move forward together as one nation.”
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