It has been six years since Rudd issued that apology. Six years since the Australian Government provided $26.6 million from their 2009–2010 budget to help Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders establish a foundation to help them heal their communities as part of the Council of Australian Government’s Closing the Gap initiative, a program committed to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians country-wide and ensuring that all Indigenous children have bright futures ahead. It was from this initiative that the Healing Foundation was born, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to address the insidious legacy of colonisation on the Indigenous community, including intergenerational trauma caused by the Stolen Generations and Governmental policy.
“It’s likely that these forms of dispossession (the stealing of children from Indigenous communities and raising them amongst ‘white’ communities) begun not long after European Settlement,” explains Jasmin Onus, stressing the importance of empathy and education. Onus is an active member of the Healing Foundation and its Youth Reference Group, and has been for years now.
“A lot of the issues that affect the Indigenous community are interrelated and we can help fix that by educating the wider community, strengthening the Indigenous communities themselves, and their families, and providing insight into what our elders experienced.”
Formed in December 2012, the Youth Reference Group consists of a team of young Indigenous ambassadors who devote their free time to improving Australia’s Indigenous communities by supporting activities that promote healing and reconciliation, including helping people reconnect with their families, counseling, traditional healing processes, engaging with young Indigenous peoples through social media, as well as creating a support network for these youths and their families in conjunction with the Healing Foundation.
“We are engaged with the Indigenous community through open communication established with the Healing Foundation and the Youth Reference Group,” details Onus enthusiastically, who works as a solicitor for the Northern Land Council when she’s not involved with the Youth Reference Group. “We hold summits [across Australia] to talk to people affected by the Stolen Generations and [those who are] Stolen Generation survivors. We are also engaged with the Indigenous community throughout different places across the country and target all members of the community who have been affected.” Another job that the Youth Reference Group is responsible for is assisting with the organisation of Healing Foundation events, including the one this week: The Apology Concert.
Built upon the slogan of ‘Heal Our Past, Build Our Future Together’, the concert will commemorate the 2008 Parliamentary Apology to the Stolen Generations and its significance as a catalyst for reparation within the Indigenous community. “We selected the hosts and the artists because we wanted a balance of Indigenous and non-Indigenous hosts, as well as artists,” says Onus, highlighting the cultural unity that this symbolises. This ambition quickly became a feat the foundation successfully accomplished, with a balanced bill of Indigenous, including Stolen Generation survivor Archie Roach and multi-disciplined entertainer Christine Anu, and non-Indigenous artists — rock legend and You Am I vocalist Tim Rogers and virtuoso Clare Bowditch. The organisers even balanced their host choices with Indigenous theatre star Miranda Tapsell (Redfern NOW, The Sapphires) and Melbourne theatre star Eddie Perfect (South Pacific, Kath & Kim, Spicks & Specks) at the helm for the night.
Jasmin highlights that the concert will be educational for all attendees too. “We have an excellent generational video which provides a snapshot into the impact of the Stolen Generations and all the steps leading up to the apology of 2008,” elaborates the Youth Ambassador, explaining that “The Apology Concert will be chance for people of the community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to understand and be educated about the Stolen Generations. We hope to engage with people have been impacted by the Stolen Generations and engage with the community and share the history and experiences of the Stolen Generation. We hope that people learn about the dispossession of the Stolen Generation and the impact that the policies had, and still have, on the Indigenous community. We hope that people learn about our projects in the community and the positive impact they’re having on Indigenous Australians. I believe that acknowledgement is the first step to the healing journey. It allows us to move forward and heal. The Apology Concert will also be a positive event that all Australians can attend while still having a good time.”
BY AVRILLE BYLOK-COLLARD