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Australian apology welcome but compensation vital

14 February 2008

On 13 February Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an historic apology to Australia's indigenous population for past wrongs committed by successive Governments.

Rudd apologised for former laws and policies that had caused suffering and loss to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and particularly singled out the ‘Stolen Generations' – tens of thousands of indigenous children forcibly removed from their families as part of a Government-sponsored assimilation policy that lasted until the late 1960s.

MRG applauds this change of direction from the Australian government, whose previous Prime Minister, John Howard, had refused for over a decade to apologise to the ‘Stolen Generations'.

However, indigenous groups are calling for financial compensation to accompany the apology.

Mark Lattimer, MRG's Executive Director said, "Kevin Rudd's welcome apology ends decades of denial about what was done to tens of thousands of indigenous children. But for that apology to be accepted as genuine, the Australian government now needs to get serious about offering compensation to the victims."

A minority of around 450,000 among a population of 21 million, Australia's indigenous Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders continue to suffer health and lifestyle problems more common to people living in developing countries. On average, they die almost 20 years earlier than other Australians and suffer significantly higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and imprisonment.