A Stolen Generations survivor has been 'liberated' after sharing her experience with a crowded room for the first time, 16 years on from Australia's formal apology expressed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Stolen Generations support service Connecting Home's Vanessa Scales told her personal story at an annual ceremony marking the anniversary at Darebin Town Hall in Naarm on Tuesday.
A proud Barkindji woman, Ms Scales, 53, said she was brought up in a strict, white, Christian household after being taken to Melbourne as a baby, and only began her journey back to her birth family after having a son of her own.
In later years, she built a relationship with her mum, who has since passed, and siblings - who are still getting to know one another, but has been unable to do the same with her dad.
"I didn't grow up to be with my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews," Ms Scales said.
"It was very, very sad and I was very, very angry for a very long time."
Ms Scales said she "burst into tears" while watching, with her son and daughter, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd deliver the apology at Parliament House in 2008.
"It affected me but at the same time it was like a release."
She also shared other elements of her life, including cancer battles and sexual abuse endured.
She told National Indigenous Times it was "nerve wracking but also liberating" to open up to the room after only ever sharing small details in the past.
Reflecting on the apology speech, she said it's difficult to explain what it meant, but she was grateful to hear it.
Ms Scales said there is still work in front of the nation towards Closing the Gap.
The ceremony was co-delivered by Darebin City Council, Connecting Home and fellow Stolen Generation, families and children's services the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and Link-Up Victoria.
Mutti Mutti, Boon Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman and survivor Aunty Eva-Jo Edwards said "today is a day of reflection", and one 16 years on from the apology but 56 years on from the beginning of her experience.
Singer-songwriter and survivor Kutcha Edwards told the room he woke up at 3 am on Tuesday with an "unsettled" spirit before performing to the room.
He was also critical of October's unsuccessful referendum, stating the voice of Indigenous Australians had been "silenced again".
Survivors led the room out to a lunch, with attendees gathering and placing flowers on Darebin Council's Stolen Generations marker on the way.