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'A subpoena may refresh Macklin's memory'

A Canberra court could call on Indigenous Minister Jenny Macklin to identify the rightful owner of a copy of the apology to the stolen generations.

The National Sorry Day Committee had previously asked the ACT Supreme Court to decide whom the framed apology signed by Kevin Rudd belongs to. It was presented in 2008.

The committee was granted permission to file an amended application to recover property held by its indigenous former co-chairwoman Helen Moran.

Ms Moran, who was born to a white mother and an Aboriginal father, was taken from her family at 18-months-old.

She became a founding member of the committee, which was formed following the 1997 ''Bringing Them Home'' report into the stolen generations.

Lawyers for the committee originally sought the return of 14 items, including electronics, original pledge books, artwork and music sticks. Fairfax Media believes all items were returned, except the framed apology which is held by Ms Moran.


At a directions hearing on Friday, Justice John Burns said the matter could be easily resolved by asking the appropriate minister who the document was intended for.

When the judge was told Ms Macklin had declined, he replied: "A subpoena might help refresh her memory".

The matter was listed for hearing in August.

Justice Burns declined to order affidavits, instead saying he would receive verbal evidence on the day.

The decision raises the prospect Ms Macklin could be forced to give evidence from the witness box, if the matter is not resolved beforehand.

Fairfax Media understands an offer has been made to provide a second signed and framed copy to break the deadlock.