Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shepparton gathering promotes reconciliation

Shepparton residents honoured the Stolen Generations at a National Sorry Day ceremony.

JOHN LEWIS May 27, 2014 3:32am

Academy of Sport Health and Education's Dana Dean-Atkinson at yesterday's Sorry Day.

About 150 people gathered at Shepparton’s Monash Park yesterday morning to remember the mistreatment of Australia’s Indigenous people and to honour the Stolen Generations.

Yesterday’s ceremonies and speeches marked the day 16 years ago when the first National Sorry Day took place on May 26, 1998 — one year after the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report.

Reference was also made to May 26, 2000 when 500000 Australians walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge with the word ‘‘Sorry’’ written in the sky above.

In front of Aboriginal elders, school students and representatives of local government and welfare agencies, Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group convenor Bobby Nicholls reminded people of the significance of the day.

‘‘We still have Aboriginal people today who are living in two worlds and who are trying to find their identity,’’ Mr Nicholls said.

He said racism was still happening in the Goulburn Valley and referred to two recent incidents reported at football matches at Longwood and Numurkah.

‘‘There is racism here and it is alive,’’ he said.

Mr Nicholls warned that proposed government changes to racial vilification laws would adversely affect Aboriginal people.

‘‘If it gets through it will set us back 100 years,’’ he said.

Yesterday’s crowd was held spellbound as Dungala Children’s Choir member Lillie Walker, 8, sang two songs unaccompanied, one in Yorta Yorta language, as part of the morning’s events.

After flag-raising and speeches by Shepparton secondary school students, crowd members joined Mr Nicholls and City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan on a walk to La Trobe University for further ceremonies and a barbecue.

Yesterday’s commemoration marked the start of Reconciliation Week in Shepparton.

Other events during the week include the launch of UnitingCare Cutting Edge’s Reconciliation Action Plan today; a screening of the John Pilger film Utopia tomorrow from 7pm at Rumbalara Football Netball Club in north Shepparton; and a Racial Discrimination Act Forum at Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE on Fryers St on Friday from 2pm.

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