Given the vast difficulties still faced by Aboriginal Australians, this is just one small step in the right direction — but still an important and worthy one.
In 1998, a coalition of Australian community groups declared May 26 “National Sorry Day”: an annual day of atonement for the social-engineering policy that ripped an estimated 50,000 children from their Aboriginal families between 1910 and the 1970s. But it took Australia’s government another decade to utter an official apology.
By some accounts, the policy of removing mostly mixed-race children from their Aboriginal tribes was well-intentioned. Officials and missionaries, arguing that the children would have more advantages in mainstream Australian society, took them to be raised in orphanages, boarding schools or white homes, according to a 2008 TIME story about the eventual apology. Other justifications smacked of eugenics, as with the argument by A. O. Neville, Australia’s Commissioner for Native Affairs in the 1930s, that people of Aboriginal descent could only be assimilated by “breeding out the color.”
The policy created six decades’ worth of what Australians call the…
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