Liza Duncan remembers it like it was yesterday. The day 10 years ago, when then prime minister Kevin Rudd stood before the Australian people and apologised for the wrongs committed against the Indigenous community by past governments.
“It was very emotional. There was people there that just had their arms around one another, were hugging one another,” she said.
For Liza, it was a moment of both great joy and loss.
“It opened old wounds about my great aunty - her children got taken from her and that still has a big impact,” she said. Liza said it was a special moment for the Aboriginal people, to have the prime minister acknowledge the suffering of the Stolen Generations and apologise for it publicly.
“I thought that was just absolutely wonderful,” she said.
“That’s all people wanted to hear.”
Liza, who grew up in Ashford, said every person in the Inverell Shire’s Indigenous community has been affected by the Stolen Generations in some way. She said her five children see her wounds reopened when she passes on their family stories.
“There’s still a lot of people who live with that, and there’s a lot of people who were taken as children - they never knew their family. And those who did go back, who did find their family, for some of them it was too late. It was like my great aunty. She never ever set eyes on her children again.”
Liza did get the chance to meet one of her long lost cousins, and their son. She found it hard to explain the “sheer joy” of reconnecting with family. She said it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Although she considered the apology a big step forward, Liza said Australia still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot of learning and progress to be made, because there’s people out there, non believers who believe it never happened. Well it did happen. It’s been documented,” she said.
Liza felt there should be more education on the Stolen Generations, and encouraged locals to do their own research on the dark period in Australia’s history. She said it wasn’t about guilt, but about acknowledging the wrongs done in the past in order to move forward.
“On behalf of myself and my family, I’d just like to thank the then prime minister Kevin Rudd for going ahead and apologising,” she said.