6 years later, Indi says sorry

INDI will make its own apology to the stolen generations, six years after the historic national apology.

The member for Indi Cathy McGowan will this morning say “sorry” in Federal Parliament on behalf of the electorate to coincide with National Reconciliation Week.

An apology was a pre-election commitment of the independent MP — one triggered directly by her predecessor Sophie Mirabella’s refusal to support the apology in 2008.

CLICK HERE to read Cathy McGowan's full apology as delivered in Parliament House this morning. 

Also, here's our editorial: Sorry, and now we can move on

Mrs Mirabella was one of five Liberal MPs who did not attend Parliament when former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apologised to the stolen generations of indigenous children from 1909 to the 1970s.

Mrs Mirabella said the apology — passed unanimously — was “divisive” and “hastily put together”.

About 500 Indi residents rallied in protest against her stance a week later and the issue haunted her up until last year’s federal election.

Ms McGowan last night told The Border Mail voters had spoken to her throughout the election campaign about their ongoing disappointment.

“Many people felt they weren’t represented (in 2008) and they wanted it known they accept the apology,” she said.

Asked if it was necessary to make an apology six years later, Ms McGowan said it important to put a “full stop” on it at a local level.

“It was unfinished business in a way — a lot of people were upset at the time,” she said.

“I want to say to the people of Indi that our Aboriginal population is important to us.”

She was aware some people would disagree with her stance but was unconcerned.

“If people feel that way, it’s OK. They’re welcome to share their differences of opinion.”

Ms McGowan consulted several of Indi’s indigenous groups ahead of today’s speech, although none of them will have representatives in Canberra to hear it in person.

While the groups welcomed her apology, she said, they had not wanted “a fuss”.

Rather, their focus now was about moving forward, particularly on the issue of constitutional recognition.

“There’s an enormous amount of things happening with all the Aboriginal communities in Indi,” she said.

“‘We have moved on from the apology’,” they are saying to me, ‘This is where we need your help now’. I want to make sure their issues are represented like everyone else.”

She said she had recently visited the First Steps Koori kindergarten in Wodonga, and spoken with elders at Mansfield about the impact the federal budget would have on indigenous people.

Ms McGowan will also invite the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People chairman, Ken Wyatt, to Indi.