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It’s a very ordinary word, but one that has the power to move our country towards a safer and more equal future: sorry. 

National Sorry Day is a day when we remember and acknowledge the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities based on race: the stolen generations. 

It’s a day when we reflect on the injustices of the past and recognise that the injustices of the past remain very much in the present for Indigenous Australians. 

It’s been 12 years since Prime Minister Rudd stood up in Parliament and delivered the National Apology – and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still 10.6 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be removed from their families. 

At Refuge Victoria, Sorry Day is a time when we reflect on how we can play a part in the healing process of our people and nation – as individuals, family violence professionals, and as an organisation. 

As family violence refuge staff, we understand that historical injustice is still an ongoing source of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Islander families. 

Ten per cent of our refuge clients identify as Indigenous. Their trauma isn’t just the result of the family violence they have experienced – it’s a result of generations of violence, loss and disempowerment. 

Yet, the uncomfortable truth is that we work in a sector with a bleak history. Over much of our history, the profession of social work has played a key role in the displacement and discrimination of Indigenous people. 

It’s not the truth we would want, but the simple fact is, we cannot begin to fix the problems of the present without accepting the truth of our history.