Donna Meehan recounted the day she witnessed former prime minister Kevin Rudd say sorry to Aboriginal people as she spoke at the National Sorry Day celebration in Rutherford.
The guest speaker took the 60 people who attended the celebration back to the emotion of May 26, 2008, when tears flowed freely because finally the Aboriginal people and their plight had been recognised.
“Hearing that apology was so profound; it needed to come from the top,” she said.
“As we were leaving Parliament House there was a traffic jam and we saw a kangaroo crossing six lanes of traffic and then it jumped onto the lawn of Parliament House.
“Why would there be a kangaroo there at 9am in the morning? We know that was an ancestor.”
Ms Meehan spoke of the response from the Australian public she received during her journey from Canberra to Brisbane after the announcement.
“We heard comments at every country town along the way; we were treated so respectfully,” she said.
“There had been such a shift in the country because of that apology.”
Rutherford Technology High School students attended the celebrations on Thursday, along with a range of community representatives.
“It’s about bringing people together, I’m a long way down my journey of healing and its wonderful there are so many kind people who have joined us,” Ms Meehan said.
“Together we can make a bridge and move forward together. The biggest thing with our people is the sense of worthlessness; it takes us time to build up confidence and take on a challenge.”
Maitland Neighbourhood Centre senior community worker Nicole Cooney said the event united people and gave them an understanding of the importance of reconciliation.
“It is an excellent example of the community coming together and wanting to move forward as one,” she said.
“It shows we want something better than what we have and that we all want more equality.”
National Reconciliation Week is held between May 27 and June 3.