Transitional justice has become the dominant international framework for redressing mass harm and historical injustices. However, transitional justice is commonly premised on the notion of a recent point of rupture or change from violence and oppression to a ‘new dawn’, and has therefore been less attuned to accommodating the long-term effects of colonialism. Accordingly, the historical experiences of Indigenous peoples in settler states such as Australia, New Zealand and North America have been
considered outside the field. This exploratory paper sketches out some of the perceived benefits of articulating a new conceptual approach, which at once historicises transitional justice and brings the experiences of Indigenous peoples within its purview. Taking an interdisciplinary (criminological, socio-legal and historical)
perspective, we consider why notions of transitional justice have not been thought relevant to the circumstances of settler colonialism. We suggest that while the relatively presentist concerns of transitional justice effectively elide the impact of colonialism, its holistic ameliorative framework might nevertheless become relevant to considerations of how just outcomes might be pursued in settler
societies. Similarly, in elaborating the significance of colonial pasts per se in shaping contemporary experiences, such interdisciplinary approaches might also help address some of the criticisms emerging
in recent literature on transitional justice.
We draw here on a larger team-based and cross-sectoral interdisciplinary research project that has been submitted for funding under the Australian Research Council Linkage scheme. It will be the task of the larger project to develop and explore the many issues arising from this discussion,
including the need to identify and examine certain conceptual and applied challenges involved in seeking the kind of comprehensive official recognition of past injustices we simply canvass here.