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White Apology and Apologia: Australian Novels of Reconciliation By Liliana Zavaglia ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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White Apology and Apologia:


This book explores a body of recent white Australian fiction, which was published in the wake of profound cultural and legal transformations that took place in the field of Indigenous rights since the 1990s. The novels were published between 2002 and 2007, during a time when the conservative Liberal Government, led by John Howard, had all but immobilised the progress of Indigenous rights. During his eleven-year tenure as Prime Minister, John Howard was consistent in his disregard for what he termed “symbolic” reconciliation, with the result that twenty-five years of policies directed towards Indigenous self-determination were progressively dismantled. In their place Howard promoted plans for “practical” reconciliation. This involved integration into the wider community, rather than self-determination; it left aside the push for treaty and apology and instead focused on developing policies that would improve socioeconomic conditions for Indigenous people. As a result, the Indigenous political presence that had been prominent since the 1990s all but disappeared from view during this time (Healy, Forgetting Aborigines 19–20).

The literary works explored in this book worked to counter these political attempts to silence the Indigenous rights and reconciliation movements. Through the medium of fiction, they worked to keep Indigenous justice issues before the Australian reading public, provoking discussion and stirring debate. I would not be the first to suggest that by their mediations, these novels attempted to intervene in the stillness of the Howard years as acts of determined literary activism that strived towards reigniting the politically stalled processes of reconciliation. Apart from