MEMBERS of the North East’s Aboriginal community have commended Cathy McGowan for sticking to her election promise and apologising to Indi’s stolen generation.
The member for Indi said sorry in a Parliamentary speech yesterday, six years after former prime minister Kevin Rudd made the historical national apology.
Ms McGowan’s predecessor, Sophie Mirabella, was one of five Liberal MPs who refused to attend, sparking disappointment from Indi’s Aborigines.
Before last year’s election, Ms McGowan met members of their community, including Liz Heta.
“She made a promise to us, if she won the election, one of the first speeches would be an apology,” she said.
“She’s a very genuine person to do that — she came through.”
Mrs Heta said people who had been part of the stolen generation had felt their voices weren’t being heard.
“For them it’s a way of being acknowledged for the pain and suffering they went through,” she said.
“On the effects on their families and the next generation.”
Mrs Heta said Mrs Mirabella’s refusal to attend Mr Rudd’s speech was seen as “disrespectful” and that she had turned her back on them.
She said her community now had faith their representative to speak on their behalf.
Mungabareena Corporation acting chief executive Judy Cue said the apology was the “start of a journey” to improving the lives of Indi’s Aborigines.
“I believe with her, our voice is going to be heard more in Parliament,” she said.
“We’ve still got a long way to go for people to really heal from the trauma, loss and grief from past government policies and administration.”
Ms Cue said “closing the gap” between Aboriginals and the rest of the population on health, housing, employment and education was a priority.
Ms Cue said that Ms McGowan had invited the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People chairman, Ken Wyatt, to Indi was promising.