Memories of Violence and the Politics of State Apologies
This chapter examines the politics of state apologies as they have worked in domestic political space. I ask what are the limitations on the state's vulnerability to claims against it for harms done in institutions that are the responsibility primarily of government? It will be suggested that prior to the 1970s the governmental visibility of disadvantaged populations was always and only in relation to the demands of social policy, at the service of a more general population policy. The historical conditions in which the poor, mentally ill, orphaned and neglected children, or (especially in imperial contexts), Indigenous peoples were made the object of governmental attention were those in which government looked to sustain the security, health and well-being of the population in general. That process constructed populations, gave them certain identities, and preserved them in new forms, distinguishing status along lines of intervention that saw many institutionalised or otherwise 'protected' or placed in tutelage. The history of the associated institutions and practices of this form of government shows that protection was a misnomer, and that harms including considerable violence were often done to those in state care. As changing notions of citizenship have joined with the forces of deinstitutionalisation the state has proved increasingly vulnerable to claims for accountability for such wrongs. At the same time the claims for apology proceed along paths that require the construction of claims of innocence violated, especially of the status of childhood affronted. The limited redress available to those who have experienced violence in prison, mental hospitals or police custody marks out the circumscribed domain of state apologies.
Exhuming Passions: The Pressure of the Past in Ireland and Australia
Historical Studies not elsewhere classified
Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)