The nomos of apologia

Maria Giannacopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


On 13 February 2008, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, offered an apology to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous peoples — an apology he said he offered ‘without qualification’. His ‘unqualified’ apology, however, was crafted for the purpose of bringing ‘the first two centuries of our settled history to a close’. In this article, I not only contend that Rudd’s apology comes with qualifications but also that it is unqualified. Rudd says: ‘but my proposal is this: If the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia’. This is precisely a moment of ‘qualification’, since Rudd attempts to delineate the boundaries through which the recipients are to ‘accept’ his terms. But further, the delineation of the boundaries for the comprehension of this apology also draw our attention to the ways in which the apology is ‘unqualified’ — that is to say, it silences and denies the more complete context of colonial violence for which Rudd should be apologizing, or at least acknowledging, but instead is silent. This contradiction in the text of Rudd’s apology is not accidental: it reproduces the violent and productive contradictions that are constitutive of Australian law and sovereignty. Rudd’s apology is for specific laws of the past but not for the system of law itself, which in the Australian context is an effect and perpetuation of colonial violence. By remaining silent on the larger questions of the place of white law in a still-colonial Australian context, Rudd can seemingly logically call a period of history ‘settled’, ‘resolved’ and, alarmingly, ‘closed’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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