· Standing ovation for PM's speech
· Backs turned on Brendan Nelson
· Keating says words mean more than money
· Tuckey leaves before apology
· Crowds celebrate
Australia has formally apologised to the stolen generations with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reading a speech in Federal Parliament this morning.
The apology was read at 9am to the minute, as the first action of the second sitting day of the 42nd Parliament of Australia.
Both Mr Rudd and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin received a standing ovation as they entered the Great Hall before the Prime Minister delivered the speech.
The reading of the 361-word apology was completed by 9.03am and was watched by hundreds of parliamentarians, former prime ministers and representatives of the indigenous community.
Former prime ministers Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser and Sir William Deane were all seated on the floor of the Parliament as well as 17 people representing the stolen generation.
Removing a stain from the soul of Australia
In another address directly after reading the apology, Mr Rudd spoke of removing a "stain from the soul of Australia".
"The time has come, well and truly come ... for all Australians, those who are indigenous and those who are not to come together, truly reconcile and together build a truly great nation."
The Prime Minister also discussed the first-hand accounts in the Keating government-sponsored report Bringing Them Home.
"There is something terribly primal about these first-hand accounts. The pain is searing, it screams from the pages - the hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental sense of humanity.
"These stories cry out to be heard, they cry out for an apology.
"Instead from the nation's Parliament there has been a stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade.
"A view that somehow we the Parliament should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong.
"A view that instead we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side.
"To leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.
"But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities, they are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments.
Time for denial is at an end
"But as of today the time for denial, the time for delay, has at last come to an end."
At 9.28pm Mr Rudd finished his address, and was greeted by loud and lasting applause by both sides of the house.
He reached across the house's table and shook the hand of Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson before returning to the front bench, where he himself applauded.
Dr Nelson then stood and delivered a speech in support of the apology.
"We will be at our best today, and every day, if we call to place ourselves in the shoes of others," he said, "imbued with the imaginative capacity to see this issue through their eyes with decency and respect.
"We cannot from the comfort of the 21st century begin to imagine what they overcame, indigenous and non-indigenous to give us what we have and make us who we are.
"We do know that language, disease, ignorance, good intentions, basic human prejudices and a cultural and technological chasm combined to create a harshness exceed only by the land.
"In saying we are sorry, and deeply sorry, we remind ourselves that each generation lives in ignorance of the long-term consequences of its actions."
At the end of Mr Rudds's speech, all MPs stood except for the Liberal MP Chris Pearce. Mr Pearce did stand after Dr Nelson's speech.
Liberal MPs Wilson Tuckey and Don Randall were not in the chamber.
People watching in the Great Hall turned their backs during Dr Nelson's speech.
Paul Keating: words more important than money
Mr Keating told ABC TV: "This is a day of open hearts''.
"A country has always got to look for its golden threads and when we start looking for the black threads you lose your way,'' he said. "We lost our way for a decade looking for black threads.
"What is important is that when policy cut across the human spirit we are always in for misery and as a consequence the stolen generation was a cut right across the spirit of those people and the soul of the country.''
Mr Keating's government was responsible for commissioning a report into the stolen generations which focused on possible processes of compensation.
However today, Mr Keating said words were more important than money.
"It is true the report does in some respects focus on compensation,'' he said.
"The most important thing is the sorry. The most important thing is the national emotional response. I don't believe that these separations or that sadness will ever be settled in a monetary sense.
"It can never be settled in a monetary sense. Far more important in my term was to settle it in an emotional sense and that's what the prime minister and government have done today.''
Mr Rudd's speech received a standing ovation at the Redfern Community Centre, where hundreds gathered.
Residents, workers, families, students and Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore braved the rain to watch the speech via a large outdoor screen.
David Page, composer with the indigenous dance group Bangarra Dance Theatre, said he liked the fact that Mr Rudd made a personal apology.
"It was very moving to see a prime minister with a bit of heart. I loved it when he said he was sorry. There was just something personal about it. It's very hard for a prime minister to be personal," he said.
Enid Williams, 72, who was brought up on a mission in north Queensland after her father was forcibly removed from his family, said she was happy with Mr Rudd's speech, but said it was now important to look to the future.
"I'm 72. The main thing is the young people, to give them a better future."
At Martin Place in Sydney, hundreds of Sydneysiders from all walks of life gathered to watch the Sorry Day celebrations holding Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
Men and women in business suits, schoolchildren and other passers-by of all different backgrounds cried, smiled and stood in respect as they listened to Mr Rudd apologise.
Lawn at Parliament House
Many thousands more assembled on a lawn in front of Parliament House to watch the apology on a big screen. As Mr Rudd delivered the first of three sorrys, loud applause and cheering rang out.
Aboriginal flags and Australian flags coloured the air and as Mr Rudd closed his address, the crowd rose to their feet in applause. It was a standing ovation. Many were crying, most were smiling and others just quietly said yes.
As Dr Nelson took the microphone, booing was heard. One woman said he shouldn't have been allowed to speak.
Helen Ford, 70, from Beacon Hill said Mr Rudd's speech was magnificent.
"Mr Rudd's speech was just magnificent. It's a wonderful day. Pity about the Opposition speech."
Ray Finn, 52, from Oodnadatta, South Australia, said: "My family had been affected directly and I felt like the chain had finally broke from us.
"There's still racism to deal with but hopefully from this day we'll go forward together."
Torres Straits Islander Lydia George, from Erub Island, said: "The first speech was very symbolic. The second speaker tarnished it. I was thinking of my granddaughter and her future is now, not tomorrow. She'll face a new future that will be bright. The healing process has began."
Mr Rudd's speech was not greeted with unanimous approval, however, with Mr Tuckey telling Sky News shortly before 9am he doubted the speech - which has bipartisan support - would change anything.
"So the Prime Minister reads a speech, apparently some people stand up and sit down and then a miracle happens over night, there'll be no petrol sniffing ... and girls can sleep safely in the family bed at night," he said.
When asked by Sky News if he supported the apology, a technical error occurred, with Mr Tuckey telling the camera he was unable to hear the question.
- with Edmund Tadros, Yuko Narushima, Phillip Hudson, Leesha McKenny and AAP
TOMORROW: Sydney Morning Herald souvenir Sorry Day edition.
Media Man Australia Profiles