Sorry Day by Coral Vass

Published: 1st May 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
National Library of Australia
Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows a willingness to make things right. The story commemorates both the momentous speech made by the Prime Minister of Australia to say sorry to the indigenous people for past abuse and to also recognise the decades of abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. Told through the eyes of a young girl participating in the ceremony today and, in sepia colours, the eyes of the stolen children in the past.

The anniversary of the apology is actually in February but it is recognised in May as part of National Sorry Day, a day first held on 26 May, 1998. In 2008 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave the apology that indigenous people had been rightly asking for for years, the one that apologised to the stolen generation for the way they had been treated by the government for decades.

I remember vividly watching this on TV, I cried then and I cried now. This is a remarkable book as it celebrates the momentous speech by Kevin Rudd but it also shows the past and the horrors indigenous people had to endure. Vass uses Rudd’s real words and she weaves it into this young girl’s story, not quite understanding the impact, but we see it through her mum and the adults around her.

As one story unfolds about that wonderful February day, it is shadowed by the realities of the history those words represent. The contrast from page to page is a stark reminder and a beautifully heartbreaking juxtaposition about the two eras, and what the importance of the speech means. In the present a young girl loses the hand of her mother and is lost momentarily in the crowd, in the past, young children lose their parents forever.

I loved that each page threw up into a different time in history. From the lawns of Canberra, to the creeks where children hide in terror, then back to watching the speech. It is such a powerful move to bring the voices of the past into the present.

Leffler uses colour to show the differences between eras, colours for the present, with sepia depicting the past. The images are vivid and emotive and coupled with Vass’ words and my own understanding of history, it is incredibly clever to see these two moments side by side.

What I found interesting was the information included at the back about the history from the stolen generation to Prime Minster Keating in the 90s to Rudd in 2008. As I said, Sorry Day is recognised every single year and it is important that people acknowledge and understand what it means.

More people need to remember this speech, remember the impact it had, but also remember why it needed to be said in the first place and wonder just why it took so long to be said. This is the ideal book to tell the story in an impactful yet gentle way and it is certainly one that can spark great discussions.

You can purchase Sorry Day via the following

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