Channel Seven’s morning news program Sunrise has faced backlash after airing a pre-recorded apology on Monday morning over the now infamous comments made by an all-white panel in 2018 that suggested the need for another Stolen Generation.
Airing at approximately 6.47am Monday morning, the apology appeared in text accompanied by a pre-recorded voiceover.
“Opinions were expressed during the segment which referred to the Stolen Generation and which were offensive to some viewers, including Indigenous Australians,” the apology read on-screen.
“Channel Seven, the Sunrise team and our commentators Prue MacSween and Ben Davis apologise for those comments and the harm they have caused.”
On March 13, 2018 Sunrise aired a segment which implied a group of Yolngu Traditional Owners were incapable of looking after their own children, suggesting the need for another Stolen Generation.
The all-white panel consisted of current Sunrise co-host Samantha Armytage and commentators Prue MacSween and Ben Davis.
“Just like the first Stolen Generation where a lot of children … were taken … it was for their wellbeing, we need to do it again,” MacSween said at the time.
Armytage also made comments about Aboriginal children which were later proven to be incorrect.
A group of Yolngu Traditional Owners later took Channel Seven to court, suing for defamation and winning damages, legal costs and a public apology.
The subsequent apology on Monday was aired in the first hour of the three-and-a-half-hour morning news program and was not read out by any of the commentators involved.
Many have since taken to Twitter to voice their dismay at the apology, with users labelling it “appalling”, “pitiful” and the “bare minimum”. Some also questioned why the presenters involved were not apologising on-camera themselves.
I am not sure who else saw that apology, but that was not contrition. That was the bare minimum to tick off a condition agreed legally. Coupled with the fact that it went to air at 6:47am and the people who *expressed opinions* did not make the apology directly shows contempt.
— IndigenousX Team – Nat (@IndigenousX) January 3, 2021
Greens Councillor for Waverley Council Dominic WY Kanak posted a recording of the apology via Twitter, asking Sunrise to pin a copy of the apology to their social media feeds for all to see.
How nice for MacSween and Davies that they don’t actually have to have the apology words come out of their own mouths, unlike the racist statements that make the apology necessary
— DrGreenie (@Green_Girl100) January 3, 2021
Arrernte commentator Celeste Liddle also hit back at the apology, posting on Twitter she’s “not convinced” Sunrise learnt anything from the situation.
I would like to inform @sunriseon7 that Aboriginal community members fought hard to get that apology out of you. Perhaps next time, try some sincerity and also actually have a person deliver it. I’m not convinced you’ve learnt anything here.
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) January 4, 2021
The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) released a statement in response to the apology, saying the organisation “welcomes the official apology from Channel Seven Sunrise”.
“The comments made in March 2018 implying that the Stolen Generation was necessary and needed to happen again is deeply hurtful to members of the Stolen Generations, and offensive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally,” said SNAICC CEO Richard Weston.
“They were ill-informed remarks, unworthy of any Australian media outlet.”
Weston also said it is “an accepted fact” that removing children from family and community has caused “profound hurt and trauma” for members of the Stolen Generations.
The Family Matters Report 2020, released annually by SNAICC as part of their Family Matters campaign, showed First Nations children are nearly 10 times as likely to be removed from their parents than non-Indigenous children.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children currently represent 37 per cent of children in out-of-home care despite making up just six per cent of the population.
Family Matters Co-Chair and Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum wurrung woman Sue-Anne Hunter said adoption is “never the answer for our children”.
“Instead we need to focus on supporting our children and families with trauma healing as well as greater investment in family support services,” she said.
“Misleading comments [are] not helpful for our communities, and our media has a responsibility to uphold the rights of our children.”
Sunrise has been contacted for comment.
By Hannah Cross