Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Cooke, G 2006, 'Let's we forget: responsibility and the archive under Howard', UNAustralia: Cultural Studies Association of Australasia annual conference, Canberra, 6-8 December, Cultural Studies Association of Australasia; University of Canberra. ISBN: 1740882539

Published version available from:

Copyright Individual Authors, 2006.

Peer Reviewed



Apologies and the taking of responsibility are complex processes, especially when it is a government that is involved in the taking. Of what does a governmental apology consist? What happens when a government takes responsibility? Apologies are usually given, and responsibility usually taken, with the aim of expressing contrition for some act performed or not performed, and with the further aim of beginning to make amends for what was done or left undone. When governments apologise, they do so in recognition that something went wrong, and that something must change. But what really happens when a government apologises, and is it any different from when a government refuses to apologise? Utilizing a broadly deconstructive methodology, and making a survey of some of the events that have put into question the ‘responsibilities’ of the Howard Government, this essay argues that questions about responsibility and apologies are questions about the function of the archive in contemporary Australian politics and culture. This essay further argues that the equivocality of the contemporary archive, and the mechanisms that dictate what is and is not recorded in or released from the archive, effectively negate the difference between a government taking, and refusing to take, responsibility.