Historic ... emotions overwhelm Bea Ballangarry (left) and Delia Gormley yesterday. PHOTO: TREVOR VEALE
Historic ... emotions overwhelm Bea Ballangarry (left) and Delia Gormley yesterday. PHOTO: TREVOR VEALE

Sorry Day

IT was emotional, moving, and a long time coming.

Yesterday's apology by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Stolen Generation was a turning point in history for many people, including Coffs Harbour siblings Aunty Marie Tarplee, Aunty Wendy Craig, Aunty Fay Haslam and Aunty Sarah Cunningham of the Bagawa Clan.

The sisters sat eerily still at the Coffs Ex-Services Club yesterday morning while Kevin Rudd said sorry for the atrocities that they endured after they were removed from their widowed father in 1956.

"Mum passed away, and within three months, they had come to take us away," Marie explained.

"There were nine of us all of us taken from our home in Korora."

The women were removed from their brothers, and Aunty Linda, Aunty Fay and Aunty Sarah grew up in a Protestant girl's home in South Grafton, while Aunty Wendy spent most of her life in institutions, and Aunty Marie was sent into service. All four agreed yesterday was an important day not just for them, but for all indigenous Australians.

"It's very important to us," Aunty Marie explained.

"We were a part of that generation. Nothing can erase what happened to us, but it's part of the healing process."

The sisters said the apology was a step in the right direction.

"When I saw some of the things Mr Rudd was going to say, I was pleased. The way he said sorry three times for our families and what we went through was really good we knew it was heartfelt," Aunty Marie said.

"It was for our brothers, our father. We were one big happy family in Korora until we were taken."

The sisters were joined by around 150 others to watch the apology, including Coffs Harbour Citizen of the Year, Aunty Bea Ballangarry.

"I couldn't put into words how important this is," she said.

"It's beyond significance it's the single biggest turn in history I've ever known, you can't beat that."



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