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Making meaning from collective apologies : Australia's apology to its indigenous peoples
journal contributionposted on 2013-02-01, 00:00 authored by C Philpot, N Balvin, David MellorDavid Mellor, D Bretherton
This article considers the meaning of intergroup apologies for their recipients. Our research examined Indigenous people’s responses to the 2008 Australian apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples forcibly removed from their families under previous governments (the Stolen Generations). We interviewed Indigenous men (n=10) and women (n=22) about their attitudes toward the apology and forgiveness. To cover the breadth of Indigenous responses to the Australian apology, we sought out participants from diverse geographic, cultural, and occupational contexts across Australia. After pooling the transcripts and entering them into NVivo, we identified key concepts and themes. Participants expressed positive, negative, and mixed views toward the apology and forgiveness. A dominant theme emerged as participants indicated that for the apology to be truly meaningful, there needed to be action commensurate with the emotion of the apology. Though participants indicated that the apology promoted reconciliation, this was not true for forgiveness. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for theoretical models of intergroup apology.