Sorry : a play in two acts ; Shame and apology in the nation-state : reflections and remembrance ; We're ready (short story)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Susan Ash

Second Advisor

Dr Kathryn Trees (Murdoch University)


"Sorry" is a play in two acts, exploring how collective memory of the past, including traumatic memory of being taken from one's family, affects the present in complex and surprising ways. The Stolen Generations' episode of Australian history, when mixed heritage Aboriginal Australians were taken from their families as a result of governmental policy, casts its shadow over four generations of Almadi Paice Aboriginal-Afghan-Anglo mixed heritage family members. Against a thematic backdrop of shame, apology and (hoped for) forgiveness, the 'living' family members struggle for empowerment and agency against the forces of government bureaucracy, the Law and their own emotional demons.

"Shame and Apology in the Nation-State: Reflections and Remembrance" is an exegesis which explores theoretical concepts related to collective memory, shame, performative apology and forgiveness, interlinked with Jan Patočka's notion of individual responsibility towards action. Using reciprocal interview material with a number of Aboriginal-Afghan-Anglo mixed heritage participants, who have either had direct experience of being "stolen" or who are related to "stolen" family members, this exegesis explores alternative modes of remembering their past and present in creative art works. In addition, I theorise that in our contemporary "age of apology" political apology to particular wronged groups of national communities may be problematic not only for their ubiquity and their tendency to alibi but because they do not address other important issues such as reparation and guarantees against repetition; nor do they deny the sovereignty of the nation-state apparatus to ‘do’ apology in a manner and at a time of its own choosing. The exegesis explores the importance of national commemoration, such as ANZAC Day, in promoting national collective memory, and theorises that a collective annual commemoration on behalf of the nation’s "stolen" people would be a much more compelling reconciliatory act than a single apology by a particular prime minister. My short story, "We’re Ready", which immediately follows the exegesis is my creative attempt to demonstrate the towards action and towards national reconciliation gestured by annual commemorative performance.

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