Settler Society and Postcolonial Apologies in Australia and New Zealand

Jennifer Lawn

Abstract


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.

Keywords


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

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol5iss1id88