Rylstone’s Aunty Mary Hooker will receive a personal apology from the Department of Children’s Services (DOCS) on Friday for the separation of Aboriginal children from their families.
The Aboriginal elder was removal from her family in 1970 along with eight of her siblings; she was one of four that was never returned to her mother’s care.
“Part of the time that I was in care, I was abused – mentally, physically and sexually – and after giving evidence at the Royal Commission, DOCS have now decided to apologise to all us kids in care,” she said.
“It’s for people that want to be able to move forward in their life and put the past behind us.”
The personal apology is one of the 54 recommendations tabled in Parliament in 1997 as part of the Bringing Them Home Report which stemmed from the National Inquiry into the Stolen Generation.
“Out of the 54 recommendations only five have so far been implemented,” Aunty Mary said.
Even though she describes the apology as a ‘start of the healing process’, the Bundjalong woman is in two minds.
“My parents are both dead so they won’t be here to hear the apology for what DOCS have done to us and two of my brothers have died – that’s four people that won’t be at that table when I sit down on Friday when the Department will tell us, in their words, how sorry they are for what happened to us and the reasons why.”
Aunty Mary will use the meeting to continuing to call for further action to address social issues and education for aboriginal youth.
“Our children are still being taken away, they still end up in Foster Care, they are still being abused – Aboriginal people have the highest rates of deaths in custody, the numbers haven’t come down at all,” she said.
“We need to ask – why are people being incarcerated – or receiving a lesser charge to a non-indigenous person”.
“I have a lot to talk about when I sit down for the apology, but for me, it’s a start.”