"You Betray Your Country": remembering and forgetting the Stolen Generations in the metropolitan press

Matthew Bailey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1997, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released Bringing Them Home, documenting historical practices of forced Indigenous child removal in devastating detail. The report was released into a fractious political environment in which historicised understandings of race were being heatedly debated. Responses to the report played out through the media as conservatives sought to reassert a traditional narrative of Australian history. The Howard Coalition government steadfastly refused to implement most recommendations of the report, including a formal national apology. The government’s stance, and its capacity to dominate the news cycle, almost immediately shifted public focus from the contents of the report to its reception. This reframing meant that, when a formal national apology was finally offered by the incoming Rudd Labor government in 2008, it offered closure not to 220 years of racial violence as was claimed, but to a 20-year acrimonious debate dominated by white elites. This process demonstrates the ways that, against the starkest evidence, institutional power can be leveraged to facilitate widespread forgetting of historical violence inflicted upon Indigenous peoples. Indigenous children in Australia continue to be removed from their families at heavily disproportionate rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-126
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • apology
  • Bringing Them Home
  • great Australian silence
  • Indigenous history
  • Stolen generation


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