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We might have said sorry to the Stolen Generations, but have we done anything to prove it?

Days after celebrating a national apology, we have prominent columnists dismissing decades of suffering as a myth perpetuated by "the Left".

By Kate Wagner
Just days ago, it was the ten-year anniversary of Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations – a particularly noteworthy event because we so rarely hear apologies from governments. An apology is an admission of guilt, but this one promised true reparation.
When Rudd said sorry, with a speech he mostly wrote himself, it seemed like a new dawn. The vile mistreatment of our First Nations people was finally being recognised and tangible steps to close the gap would surely now take place.
It was optimism ratified by Julia Gillard's apology five years later. She acknowledged the Australian government hadn't only stolen children from Aboriginals but from "fallen women" as well.
"The hurt did not simply last for a few days or weeks. This was a wound that would not heal," she said to a room full of women who endured forced adoption from the 1950s to the 1970s.
"We say sorry to you, the mothers, who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent.
"You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal."
And yet, the era of apologies was short-lived. Well, apart from the latest apology by Barnaby Joyce; He stands accused of behaviour incongruous to his public image, which had garnered votes by arguably duplicitous means.
His apology to those in his electorate, however, didn't address the deception. He was "deeply sorry … this personal issue – deeply personal issue – has gone into the public arena" – a swipe at the media rather than an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
But do apologies even matter? While Rudd's speech was groundbreaking, it didn't "close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity".
"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry," Rudd said in his national apology.
"To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry."
But this week, Andrew Bolt said the Stolen Generations was a myth perpetuated by "the Left".
"So when will the Left stop promoting the lie that too many Aboriginal children are removed, rather than too few? How many children must die to save the 'stolen generations' myth?" He wrote in his predictably inflammatory fashion.
Days after celebrating the government finally apologising for appalling crimes against our First Nations people, we have a prominent columnist undermining the entire event.
Bolt says the government has taken too few Aboriginal children when in actual fact, since Rudd's speech, Indigenous children aged one to four were eleven times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-indigenous children in the same age group in 2014 – 15 according to SBS Insight.
The program also explained since Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the number of Indigenous children in care had risen by 65 per cent to 15,000.
Records of Indigenous children being removed before the '90s were either destroyed or kept erratically, but in 1993 there were only 2,419 Indigenous kids in out-of-home care – causing some to claim there are more Aboriginal kids being removed now than ever before, Insight said.
Speaking ten years on, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted we aren't on track for four of seven targets to close the gap.
It doesn't look like we'll meet the targets to "close the gap" on life expectancy, employment, reading and writing nor school attendance by the end of 2018 – so what are apologies actually worth?
To Tessa, a woman who endured a forced adoption when she was 16-years-old, Gillard's apology meant a great deal. "It felt so good to have your traumas validated all those years later," she told Now To Love.
Michael Welsh, who was stolen from his mother at eight-years-old and not reunited with her until he was 17, described the apology as a "magical moment".
"It's made a big difference to me in my life, through my life, where I've journeyed, it's made a difference to my children, and my brother and sisters," he told the ABC.
Similarly, Germany's numerous apologies for atrocities committed in World War II and redemptive behaviour has been described as "exemplary" by some Holocaust survivors.
But apologies are one thing and reparations something different altogether. Only some eligible survivors of the Stolen Generations have received compensation.
Mr Weston told the ABC those affected were frustrated there has never been a national compensation scheme, despite a $6 million fun established by certain state governments last year.
"We need national leadership to ensure Stolen Children all over Australia have access to an equitable scheme," Mr Weston said.
"We've seen a redress scheme for the victims of child sexual abuse but, to date, the Government's been silent with regards to the Stolen Generations."
In 2015, Merkel opened the country's borders to asylum seekers. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a 92-year-old German-born Jew who survived Auschwitz, said she too was a refugee in a world of closed borders.
"Now they are opened, thanks to an incredibly generous and courageous gesture made here," she said.
"What happened happened, and it cannot be expunged," Lasker-Wallfisch said. "Now it is about making certain it can never, ever, happen again."
But what about Australia's treatment of refugees? Will the government continue to abandon vulnerable people, to ignore international agreements we promised to uphold, and just apologise for it later?
It's important to note Peter Dutton, our current Immigration Minister and a proud supporter of our stringent border security, boycotted the National Apology ten years ago. He defended his decision to do so in 2010.
"I regarded it as something which was not going to deliver tangible outcomes to kids who are being raped and tortured in communities in the 21st century," Dutton said.
"Now, if I thought for a moment that it was going to deliver positive outcomes to those kids, to their families, to those communities, then I would support it in a heartbeat."
Ironic, no?
Apologies are integral to reconciliation - how can a nation move on if their trauma is still being denied? But words are pretty little nothings without reparations and a systemic change to behaviour.