A Culture of Remembrance

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Arena Quarterly
"Culture of Remembrance ?" explores whether the approach taken by Germany to remember the crimes of National Socialist rule might be applicable to honouring the memory of colonial and post-colonial injustices against First Nations people. The text is informed by the author's personal knowledge of Germany’s culture of remembrance and his experiences of the public discourse on indigenous history as a migrant to Australia. It also explicitly refers to the work of Jewish-American philosopher Susan Neiman who in her book "Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil" examines similar issues in the context of the American legacy of slavery and the Civil War. The essay argues that a genuine culture of remembrance would primarily be an act of self-reflection by non-indigenous Australians which puts the onus on the descendants of the perpetrators and places the descendants of the victims into the role of arbiter, advising on whether what is proposed is right or appropriate. Woven into both the political and everyday culture it would be a symbolic acknowledgement of the attempted genocide of First Nations people through what Neiman calls ‘rites of repentance’. The essay concludes that if the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a generous invitation by First Nations people to build a better future together through the Voice, Treaty and Truth-Telling, a meaningful culture of remembrance could well be the reciprocal offer by white Australia to acknowledge and confront Australia's genocidal past.