Settler Society and Postcolonial Apologies in Australia and New Zealand


  • Jennifer Lawn



apology, reconciliation, Treaty of Waitangi, Sorry Day, bringing them home, historical injustice, presentism, liberalism


From the 1990s onward, collective apologies for historical injustices proliferated in political arenas across the globe, usually in response to intense activism by wronged parties or their descendants. Addressing this turn to symbolic reconciliation, I ask how such apologies might realign relationships between the Crown, indigenous communities, and settler society, with particular focus on apologies for the stolen generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families in Australia, and on Treaty of Waitangi settlements in Aotearoa New Zealand. Interpretations of collective apologies as purely calculable, impossible, or self-interested transactions are rejected. Instead, I regard apologies as a powerful mode of discourse capable not only of acknowledging wrongdoing on the part of State authorities, but also of generating new forms of historical consciousness and collective identity within settler society. However, the extent of settler engagement in the politics of collective apologies varies greatly between Australia and New Zealand.

Author Biography

Jennifer Lawn

Senior lecturer, School of Social and Cultural Studies at the Auckland campus of Massey Univesrity.


Additional Files



How to Cite

Lawn, J. (2008). Settler Society and Postcolonial Apologies in Australia and New Zealand. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 5(1), pp 20–40.