Nothing was more meaningful to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his political life than the reaction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - men and women, young and old, from country and city - to the National Apology in February 2008.
In 2008 Kevin Rudd also announced six Closing the Gap targets and brought together the Council of Australian Governments so the Commonwealth and States and Territories could, for the first time in history, agree on a common strategy and funding commitments aimed at Closing the Gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.
One of the outstanding virtues of the Closing the Gap reports, still delivered annually in Parliament, is the provision of comparative data for the first time in our history. Accurate data is vital for assessing our successes and failures and for directing our actions into the future.
In his final speech to the Federal Parliament in 2013 Mr Rudd shared his hope that the Apology led in some part to a ‘healing of the soul’. The second step remains closing the disadvantage gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their fellow citizens.
In that final address to Parliament Kevin Rudd also shared his plans to establish a National Apology Foundation to keep alive the spirit and substance of the Apology.
The National Apology Foundation has been established as a not-for-profit Foundation with five core purposes:
- To perpetuate the spirit and the substance of the National Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to future generations of Australians once the events of 2008 fade from national memory;
- To sustain the bi-partisan support the Apology has had so far into the future;
- To monitor progress in “Closing the Gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, as outlined in the 2008 Apology Statement, emphasising both positive progress as well as areas where the gap is not being closed;
- To support, in particular, closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in education by raising funds and contributing those funds to existing non-government institutions engaged in this mission; and
- To support, where possible and appropriate, Indigenous peoples internationally and their efforts to achieve reconciliation in their own countries.
The Board’s aim is to work closely with existing bodies like Reconciliation Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations like The Healing Foundation to ensure there is no ‘reinvention of the wheel’.
To this end the Board is currently undertaking consultations with national representative bodies, Link-Up state bodies, leading academics and prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to garner views on what the work program of the Foundation should be.