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Colonization and Historical Injustice–The Australian Experience

Patton, Paul
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 159-172.

Colonization in Australia produced what the various European colonizations around the world usually produced – indigenous populations reduced, marginalized, and oppressed by conflict, disease, dispossession, discrimination, and forced assimilation. In view of this, Paul Patton remarks that the collapse of the system of belief that sustained colonization may be one of the great achievements of the latter part of the twentieth century. In Australia this has led to attempts to address the injustice of the past in order to establish in the present and future a more just situation. Specifically, Parliament passed an Act in 1991 aimed at achieving reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. The process of decolonization has, however, stalled in Australia, in part because of disagreements about the requirements of justice in the context. As Patton notes, contemporary political philosophy presents at least three distinct approaches to the pursuit of justice: distributive justice; reparative justice; and relational justice. With the specifics of the Australian experience in mind, Patton argues that they should not be regarded as alternative approaches to the injustice of colonization but as complementary approaches to distinct aspects or dimensions of injustice.


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