In this National Reconciliation Week and after National Sorry day on Saturday, it is with great sadness that I speak today about the extraordinary life of Ningali Audrey Cullen who passed away on 10 May and whose deeply moving funeral I attended a week ago.
Ningali was a member of the Canberra community and a member of the stolen generations. Born on traditional lands in South Australia, Ningali was forcibly removed at the age of four. She bravely used her experiences to raise awareness about the plight of the stolen generations. She was a survivor, an advocate, a mother, a leader and a staunch republican.
After the first Sorry Day in 1998, about 80 members of the stolen generations met in Sydney to discuss what to do next. It was Ningali who said:
A million people have said sorry. At last, many non-Indigenous Australians understand what we have endured. Now we can move on to healing.
It was Ningali who proposed that Sorry Day become the Day of Healing. She understood the power of healing and she stood up to government when they told her to do it their way. One of her many roles was CoChair of the National Sorry Day Committee for six years.
Ningali is survived by her loving husband, Derek, and her children Ali, Lisa and Patrick. She leaves our world a much better place. She was a strong and proud woman who leaves a strong and proud legacy. Vale, Ningali Audrey Cullen.