Australia's new prime minister made a formal apology to the Aborigines today for "stolen generations" of children the government had taken from their homes. Tens of thousands of Aboriginal children were placed in orphanages or foster homes in a century-long program of forced assimilation. Throngs watched on big screens in front of parliament as Kevin Rudd apologized for the practice and spoke of removing "a stain from the soul of Australia."
The crowds, waving Australian and Aboriginal flags, cheered the apology. But many booed and turned their backs during a later speech by the leader of the opposition party, whose members refused to apologize during their 11 years in power. Controversy lingers, but the overall mood was one of relief and optimism. "There's still racism to deal with, but, hopefully, from this day we'll go forward together," one man told the Sydney Morning Herald.