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Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australia : the dilemma of apologies, forgiveness, and reconciliation
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2007, 00:00 authored by David MellorDavid Mellor, D Bretherton, L Firth
This article presents a qualitative study of the indigenous Australian perspective on reconciliation with nonindigenous Australia, with a focus on the role of an apology for the oppression and violence perpetrated by nonindigenous Australians, and forgiveness on the part of indigenous Australians. A brief historical analysis of the relationship between Aborigines and waves of settlers is presented to demonstrate the extent of the wrong that was perpetrated against Aborigines and the need for social as well as practical reconciliation in the current context. It is argued that negotiated forgiveness is a concept that is pertinent to the discussion of reconciliation, because it requires a dialogue between the parties and ultimately for the wrongdoer to accept accountability and responsibility for offending actions, thereby opening the door for forgiveness and, ultimately, possible reconciliation. It is suggested that a first step in the required reconciliation dialogue is an apology, but the issue of who should give and receive an apology is a complex one. The issue of who should forgive and who should be forgiven is shown to be similarly complex. Qualitative analysis of interview data from 10 participants indicated that at this point in time, forgiveness might not be salient to the indigenous population, whose primary focus is more on the matter of an apology. This suggests that negotiated forgiveness and reconciliation will remain elusive goals until the matter of an apology is resolved.