The Apology

After the Apology, Susan Moylan Coombes

Photographer Aletheia Casey recently returned to Australia after living abroad for five years and began work on a project looking at the process of reconciliation and apology to indigenous Australians. To mark National Sorry Day in Australia, Casey writes about the work.

Shortly before I left Australia in 2008, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to the First Peoples of Australia and recognised the ongoing trauma and dislocation that the colonisation of Australia has had on the Indigenous Peoples of this land. He also made a specific formal apology for the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their homes which occurred from the 1920s until well into the 1970s in Australia.

I was struck by what an important statement it had been for the government of Australia to recognise the trauma that it had directly inflicted in the past. I did wonder, however, was it, as many people felt, simply an acknowledgment of 'White Guilt'? And did this Apology have long-term healing effects on the people who had been directly affected by the laws of the past?

South coast, New South Wales South coast, New South Wales

And so I decided to explore these themes, with a direct emphasis on indigenous women, as I believe that indigenous women throughout the past have been marginalised from Australian society, and these women have had to struggle even harder than men to have their voice heard within the Australian cultural context. It is important not to underestimate the ongoing effects of what has happened in the past and how this resonates in the present and affects future generations.

By asking the question, "Has anything changed for you, emotionally or in your daily life, since the Australian federal government formally apologised to the Stolen Generation in 2008?", I aim to discover what effect this Apology has had on indigenous Australians and in particular whether it has helped in healing any of the traumas of the past. Using handwritten quotes taken from this discussion combined with portraits and landscapes the final images are in an-depth exploration into the themes of grief, loss and reconciliation.

This series is photographed with a large format camera and expired film. The treatment of the images is intended to stimulate memories and to create an emotive response to the image, thus becoming a memory landscape and an attachment to a time and place. Expired films were of help in achieving the vintage look and the colour treatment enhanced the aberrations which randomly resulted from the chemical development of the films.

The landscapes are paired with the portraits in order to emphasize how important a place of belonging is - the Stolen Generations were not only removed from their families, but they were also removed from their place of belonging, their land, and from their long history as custodians of the land.

After the Apology, Caroline Glass-Pattison Caroline Glass-Pattison
Kim Hill Kim Hill
Eliza Pross Eliza Pross
Jenny Moylan Coombes Jenny Moylan Coombes
Jasmine Haby-Atkinson Jasmine Haby-Atkinson

You can see more of Aletheia Casey's work on her website.

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