Beyond “Practical” Reconciliation: Intergroup Inequality and the Meaning of Non-Indigenous Identity



The long-standing policy of “practical reconciliation” between Australian Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people has actively disregarded the need to redress past injustice as the basis of current intergroup inequality. While this approach has received extensive critique from reconciliation scholars, its implications for Non-Indigenous involvement in reconciliation have been neglected. When Indigenous disadvantage is divorced from its social and historical context it is also more likely to be seen as having little to do with “us” as Non-Indigenous Australians. In contrast, when inequality is seen as stemming from the past and present reality of intergroup relations, and as such shapes the meaning of Non-Indigenous identity, it will be seen as more illegitimate, in need of change, and is more likely to motivate political engagement in the reconciliation process. The current study tests and finds support for this idea. Importantly, controlling for the contributions of perceived legitimacy of inequality and need for social change, Non-Indigenous identity meaning continued to significantly predict intentions to vote and engage in political action in support of reconciliation.