Kevin Rudd's apology speech, 2008 - item 4 of 6

Kevin Rudd's apology speech, 2008 - item 4 of 6

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This clip, from the middle of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples in the Australian Parliament on 13 February 2008, reveals Rudd giving three reasons why the apology was needed. It opens with him focusing on the numbers of Indigenous children removed from their families, followed by a discussion of the motivation for the legislation and policies that authorised the removals. The clip concludes with members of the Stolen Generations listening as Rudd explains that the removals continued until the 1970s.

TranscriptFurther information is available for this resource.

Educational value

  • Although the apology was part of the election-winning platform of the Australian Labor Party, not all Australians were convinced that it was needed and in this clip the Prime Minister refutes three of their opposing arguments. The first was that removals of children did not happen to any great extent. The second was that they were motivated by good intentions and the third was that the present generation is not responsible for the actions of past generations.
  • In refuting the argument that not many Indigenous children were forcibly removed, Rudd (1957-) quotes the widely accepted statistic that between one-in-three and one-in-ten of all Indigenous children in Australia were removed between 1910 and 1970. This statistic - and the statistic that about 50,000 children were removed - derive from the extensive research carried out by the national inquiry into the Stolen Generations between 1995 and 1997.
  • The quotes from two Protectors of Natives reveal that the fundamental motivation for removing children from their families and communities was about race - to eliminate 'the problem of the Aboriginal population'. Rudd quotes from the people in charge of Indigenous affairs to counter one of the most widely heard criticisms of the apology - that the people involved in the removals were motivated by a desire to help Indigenous children.
  • In considering the criticism that present generations are not responsible for the actions of past generations, the Prime Minister ridicules the argument by pointing to the fact that the removals were continuing into the 1970s. He describes the 1970s as 'not exactly a point in remote antiquity', and points out that many of the present members of Parliament were already in the Parliament in the 1970s.
  • While it may be thought that Rudd was offering the apology in the Australian Parliament on behalf of Australia as a whole, the Australian Parliament itself had much to apologise for. The Northern Territory Protector quoted in the clip was a Commonwealth employee operating under Commonwealth policies and laws passed in the Australian Parliament. From 1911 until self-government in 1978 the NT was under Commonwealth control.
  • In facing the fact that the removal of 50,000 Indigenous children throughout Australia was 'the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state as reflected in the explicit powers given [...] under statute', the Prime Minister acknowledges that the removals were legal. For him this was the fundamental justification for the apology being made by the Australian Parliament as a whole, not just by his government.