Faith, justice and Catholic public memory: The politics of reconciliation in Australia and New Zealand

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Since the early 1990s, reconciliation has influenced Australian political discourse to reflect a unique political/theological policy nexus in a jurisdiction where prevailing values and practices ordinarily position religious ideals beyond the political system’s overt and immediate concern. In indigenous policy, the Catholic Church’s own public memory has assumed particular influence as the Church responds to its historical acquiescence with public policies of un-Christian intent: the removal of indigenous children from their families and a general failure to confront colonialism’s cultural and economic impact. On a national level, reconciliation is both public memory and practical politics. It requires acknowledgement of wrong-doing, sorrow and substantive resolve to settle conflict through the development of ‘socially just’ relationships. Reconciliation is a particular way of ‘calling up’ the past through acts of public memory which illuminate, in a liberal democracy, questions of relational justice. This chapter draws on New Zealand examples to contextualize its assessment of reconciliation as public memory in Australian policy discourse. The Treaty of Waitangi has provided the rationale and framework for successive New Zealand governments to say sorry for acts of aggression against Maori tribes. In New Zealand, sorrow is expressed through Acts of Parliament that serve not only as instruments of restitution but as symbols of public memory. Through the treaty, reconciliation is entrenched into New Zealand law and politics and, in contrast with Australia (which lacks a treaty with its indigenous peoples), certainty surrounds questions of apology, including that of who ought to apologize to whom and for what.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInjustice, memory and faith in human rights
EditorsKalliopi Chainoglou, Barry Collins, Michael Phillips, John Strawson
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315588575
ISBN (Print)9781472462329
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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