City of Ballarat to recognise National Sorry Day

The City of Ballarat will recognise National Sorry Day in a ceremony in 2023.

The City of Ballarat will mark a significant annual occasion for First Nations people by recognising National Sorry Day on Friday 26 May.

A wreath will be laid in Queen Victoria Square and the Aboriginal flag will be raised as part of a ceremony to be held at 4pm.

The event, organised by the City of Ballarat’s Social Inclusion team, is planned with the guidance of the Koorie Engagement Action Group (KEAG).

KEAG is an advisory committee that provides City of Ballarat with expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters to assist in decision making for the Ballarat Community.

Uncle Murray Harrison, a Wotjobaluk Elder living in Ballarat and survivor of the Stolen Generations will reflect on his experience of being forcibly taken to Ballarat from his family, his community and his Country in Dimboola at age ten and speak about what National Sorry Day means to him.

KEAG Co-Chair, Sarah Jane Hall, a Narungga woman and Ballarat local will speak of her experience repatriating her old people.

Barry Gilson, a singer, award-winning poet, storyteller and educator, specialising in bringing back the ancient words and language of his people; the Wadawurrung, will also conduct a smoking ceremony and Welcome us to Country.

Every year on 26 May, National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the government mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, forcibly removed from their families and communities.

Dating back to its first iteration on 26 May 1998, National Sorry Day is a day to acknowledge the strength of Stolen Generations Survivors and reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for our people and nation.

2021 census data shows 1.8% of people in Ballarat identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, equating to more than 2000 people.

Over the past 10 years there has been an 84% increase in the number of people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Ballarat.

City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Des Hudson said it was critical Council continued to acknowledge the impact the Stolen Generations and other government policies had on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Ballarat has become the home to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from right across Australia, sometimes under difficult circumstances; such as being survivors of the Stolen Generations,” he said.

“As a Council it is vital we recognise that the trauma of genocide still has an impact and resonates with people today and that we continue to hold these highly-visible events.

“Without accepting the truth of our history, there is no way we can begin to fix the problems of the present.”

The delivery of National Sorry Day is consistent with the City of Ballarat's Reconciliation Action Plan and Intercultural City Strategic Plan.

An afternoon tea in the Town Hall will be held at the conclusion of the ceremony.