Apology Plaque unveiled

Before The Children's Hospital at Westmead relocated in 1995, it was known as the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children and was located in Camperdown, where it stood for 90 years.

During this time, some Aboriginal children were removed from their families and some never returned home. On the 25th anniversary of National Sorry Day (26 May), Sydney Children's Hospitals Network unveiled a permanent plaque at the site of the old hospital, formally apologising for the role the hospital played in these events and the legacy of trauma and grief caused.

The plaque was championed by Rita Williams, who worked as an as an Aboriginal Health Education Officer at the hospital for more than 30 years, and Diana Carmody, who is a Senior Social Worker and has been with the hospital for more than 37 years.

The plaque reads:

"The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network acknowledges in the days when the Royal Alexandria Hospital for Children was located at Camperdown, some Aboriginal children admitted to the Hospital were discharged to the care of government agencies which meant that for many children they did not return to their families.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network acknowledges the hurt and trauma this would have caused Aboriginal children and their families and sincerely apologises for the part it played in the removal of Aboriginal children at the Royal Alexandria Hospital for Children at Camperdown."

Rita says the Apology Plaque is an important way to acknowledge the trauma of the past and ensure the experiences of the families are heard.

"In my 32 years as the Aboriginal Health Education Officer working with Aboriginal families and patients, I have repeatedly witnessed resilience despite the long-term pain and the trauma of losing their child through no fault of their own," Rita said.

"As we unveil the Apology Plaque at the hospital’s historical site at Camperdown, it is a NEW opportunity for a NEW day. A NEW awareness with a NEW challenge to all healthcare workers to implement awareness about the stolen generation into their daily practices." 

The unveiling was led by Cathryn Cox, Chief Executive at SCHN, and attended by healthcare workers from across the Network, as well as  families and members of the Aboriginal community and representatives from the City of Sydney.

In her formal address, Cathryn said the the Apology Plaque was an important step as we continue to work towards healing and reconciliation.

"We know this apology doesn’t right the wrongs of the past, nor does it change the intergenerational trauma experienced by Aboriginal people," Cathryn said.

 "One of our priorities is to ensure Aboriginal families feel safe, welcomed and confident in coming to our hospitals and facilities and we hope this formal acknowledgement goes some way towards affirming that commitment."

 "As we move forward, we will continue to further our understanding of our shared histories and cultures and will continue to focus on respect, collaboration and listening, to help us in delivering safe and culturally appropriate care."

Rita added, "We cannot change history. We can only move forward for the next generation and this plaque is a step in the right direction."

The same apology written on the plaque also hangs in the main entrances of both The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick - signs of the Network's ongoing commitment to supporting truth telling and reconciliation for our Aboriginal communities.