Apology anniversary gathering a memorable experience for students

Mt Maria College Mitchelton

Mt Maria students explore Indigenous cultures and traditions.​

A GROUP of students from Mt Maria College, Mitchelton, were honoured to attend the 11th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations at St Rita's College, Clayfield.

On 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the formal apology on behalf of the Australian Parliament to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in particular to the Stolen Generations. 

The Mt Maria students joined many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from schools across Brisbane at the special gathering hosted by St Rita's in partnership with Murri Ministry.

Year 11 student Grace Bachmann said the it was a wonderful atmosphere, and everyone made them feel welcome.

She said the smoking ceremony welcome was truly spectacular.

“We walked into the hall and the elders smoked us with burning native tree branches," she said

Grace said once in the hall a student from each school proceeded to the stage with a jug of water.

“I was chosen to do this job," she said.

“I was so privileged, and I met some wonderful people who shared their stories.

“I made some lifelong friends."

Following the welcoming ceremony, the students split into groups and made their way to various activities. 

Grace said she was chosen to talk to the elders about their life.

“Their stories really hit me hard, she said.

“They told me about how they had been taken away from their families and how they don't even know who their mothers are.

“I couldn't even imagine what that would be like, but it made me feel grateful for the life I have and the culture that I belong to.

She said they day was amazing, and she could not wait to go next year.

Year 9 student Kobi Sax said the stories of the aunties were so amazing and he felt empowered by a speech from (BCE's Ngutana-Lui Cultural Studies Centre tutor) Marlon (Riley).

“It made me proud of my Taungurong heritage and history.

“And now I want to know more," he said.

Milly Croker in Year 7 said she also found Marlon's speech important and memorable.

“It was very inspiring and I'm sure lots of people were touched by it."

Fellow Year 7 student Mackenzie Williams said she learnt more about the stolen generations.

“I also realised how the effect of such actions goes way beyond the individual and impacts on the generations that follow.

“It made me realise that we need to look for ways to stop this from happening again."

Mackenzie said she wanted to know more about how young people could help those who had been through such hard times and hoped families could somehow be reunited.

“I enjoyed the hand activity where we painted around the cardboard hands with the colours of our schools – that was meaningful for me."

Teacher and Pelletier House co-ordinator Andrea Collins said the students, parents and staff members of schools around Brisbane were privileged to hear the stories of elders and to be part of a process of healing.

She said the rituals, activities and speeches held great significance for all those in attendance and that it would be an occasion that would stay in their collective memory.

“All those gathered were inspired and challenged to think and act in ways that will bring positive change.  We also extend our thanks to the students and staff of St Rita's College for their warm hospitality. 

“Our sincere thanks to the Murri Ministry for allowing us to gather, listen and remember," she said.​

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