On Sunday, the UK government said the British prime minister would apologise for the forced migration policy next year.
"We are sorry," Mr Rudd told a gathering of 1,000 people at Parliament House.
"Sorry for the tragedy - the absolute tragedy - of childhoods lost.
"Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused. Sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care."
Mr Rudd said the government would work to ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again.
"Let us resolve this day that this national apology becomes a turning point in our nation's story," he said. "A turning point for governments... to do all in our power to never allow this to happen again."
Mr Rudd said it was important to acknowledge the past in order to be able to move forward as a nation.
"The truth is, this is an ugly story," Mr Rudd told Parliament House. "The truth is great evil has been done."
Speaking directly to the gathering, he said: "It is my hope that from today, you will be called the 'remembered Australians'."
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