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Tuesday, May 26, 1998 Published at 03:28 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

A 'Sorry Day' in Australia

Dozens of ceremonies have been held for the so-called "stolen generation"

Ceremonies have been held throughout Australia to mark a day of national mourning for Aboriginal children forcibly separated from their parents early in the century.

As part of the commemoration - entitled Sorry Day - many church leaders and institutions have apologised for mistreatment of Aboriginal people.

A BBC correspondent in Sydney says that across the country, church bells rang, children were called to prayers and thousands of people signed so-called "Sorry Books" apologising for the practice of separating aboriginal families.

The state government in New South Wales, which is led by the Australian Labour Party, plans to give an aboriginal name to Botany Bay, the place where the English explorer Captain James Cook, first set foot on Australian soil.

[ image: Prime Minister Howard: no apology]
Prime Minister Howard: no apology
However, the conservative federal Prime Minister, John Howard, has said Australians should not be asked to apologise for acts that they had not committed.

The correspondent says that churches and state institutions took Aboriginal children from their parents believing white Australians were better able to care for them.

Today's critics of this practice say it was a form of attempted genocide intended to breed out the blackness of indigenous Australians.

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