Sorry is Just the Start: VACCHO Responds to Victoria Police’s Apology

May 24, 2024

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton formally apologised for the force’s role in the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities.

Held at the Aboriginal Advancement League in Thornbury on Friday, 24 May, the event saw Elders, Stolen Generations survivors and Community members gather to watch the apology.

‘It’s vital for Victoria Police to face up to and accept responsibility for the widespread harm caused to Aboriginal people by the role police played in forcibly removing children from their families,’ Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said.

‘While we cannot change history, we can accept the harsh truth of it and learn from it, so these harms are never repeated.’

VACCHO welcomes Victoria Police’s apology, but believes it did not go far enough.

While the Chief Commissioner has announced his commitment to complete 79 reforms by the end of 2025 as part of the force’s response to the Yoorrook Justice Commission, it remains to be seen exactly how this will be achieved.

The police need a clear plan to prevent further harm to Community at the hands of Victoria Police.

In this state, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to report encounters with police involving racism, unconscious bias and unequal application of discretionary powers. Only firm action will remedy this – but Victoria Police continue to disappoint.

Despite Victoria Police’s commitment to mandate Cultural Safety Training for all police and PSOs in June 2022, one year later, only 12% had completed the training.

VACCHO is concerned by these statistics and urges the force to take stronger action to ensure Community members in Victoria have access to safe and effective justice services.

A minute silence was observed after Mr Patton’s apology, and he was presented with a shield to hang in his office as a reminder of his promise to protect Aboriginal communities and families and respect their Culture and human rights.

VACCHO extends its thanks to those who shared their stories at the event: CEO of the Aborigines Advancement League, Co-Chair of the Elders’ Voice and First Peoples’ Assembly Aunty Esme Bamblett; CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Ian Hamm and Chair of Connecting Home Ltd Aunty Muriel Bamblett; and Uncle Kutcha Edwards for his moving performance.

Today, and always, our thoughts and respect are with survivors of the Stolen Generations, their families and Communities.

Brett Clarke (Kirrae Whurrung), a renowned Gunditjmara Nation song man, lore man, and educator brought the gathering to a close, delivering a captivating artefact talk and cultural tour of the ancient landscape of Tower Hill. Attendees appreciated the unique opportunity to connect with earth’s oldest continuous living Culture amidst the company of Tower Hill’s famous emus and koalas.

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.