On Wednesday, 29 November 2023, the Australian Government will issue a formal
national apology to all Australians impacted by the Thalidomide Tragedy.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will deliver the apology on behalf of the Australian
Government, Parliament and the Australian people, in the House of Representatives.
Thalidomide survivors, their family members, carers and supporters will attend the historic
apology, followed by a reception in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
A National Site of Recognition will also be unveiled on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin at
a ceremony on Thursday, 30 November 2023. This important event will also be attended
by thalidomide survivors and their families.
The apology and the creation of a memorial site are in response to key recommendations
of the Support for Australia’s thalidomide survivors final report, delivered by the Senate
Community Affairs References Committee in March 2019.
Thalidomide was the active ingredient in a sedative drug widely distributed to many
mothers in Australia and around the world in the early 1960s. It was later found to cause
malformation of limbs, facial features and internal organs in unborn children.
While there are 146 thalidomide survivors registered with the Australian Thalidomide
Survivors Support Program, the exact number of those affected is unknown.
Quotes attributable to Prime Minister Albanese:
“The thalidomide tragedy is a dark chapter in the history of our nation and the world.
“I recognise that the survivors, their families, friends and carers have advocated for this
apology with courage and conviction for many years. This moment is a long overdue
national acknowledgement of all they have endured and all they have fought for.
“In giving this apology, we will acknowledge all those babies who died and the families who
mourn them, as well as those who survived but whose lives were made so much harder by
the effects of this terrible drug.”
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“So many mothers and their babies were let down by systemic failures that led to the
thalidomide tragedy, and we should reflect on that and apologise for it.
“While we cannot change the past or end the physical suffering, I hope these important
next steps of recognition and apology will help heal some of the emotional wounds.
“It is difficult today, to think a tragedy like thalidomide could happen, and it’s a sobering
reminder of our duty to put in place measures to protect people from harm.”