The Illawarra's Aboriginal community marked the fifth anniversary of Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generation by bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous schoolchildren from around the region yesterday.
Students from 16 primary and high schools attended a celebration held at Warrigal Employment in Windang, a division of the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation.
Each school sent one indigenous and one non-indigenous student to symbolise reconciliation and Aboriginal elders helped the students make an art work to take back to school.
For Keira High School pair Dylan Skinner, 15, and Liam Borst, 17, the day was a chance to share in the stories and customs of the region's indigenous people.
Dylan said he was proud to be able to show off his indigenous heritage to his school's non-indigenous vice-captain, Liam, who reads an acknowledgement of Illawarra's Aboriginal people at the start of every assembly.
Warrigal Employment manager Basilia McGaw said the anniversary also provided a chance for Aboriginal elders to pass on their stories.
"It was a chance for the elders to meet the young people from the area and tell their stories about their time in the era of the stolen generation," she said. "It's an important healing process and it's important that the kids understand what fight these elders had to go through to get here today.
"If we don't start educating them now we're not going to have the same level of community leaders into the future."
Ms McGaw said news that Federal Parliament had passed legislation to create an Act of Recognition for indigenous people added an extra dimension to the celebration.
"It falls on a great day and is another small step for all indigenous people to heal and continue on with the fight we've always had," she said. "It's great to know we're making our way out there."