The Resignation of the Governor-General: Family Drama and National Reproduction

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Barbara Baird


This article tells the story of the 2003 resignation of Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General as part of an ongoing hyper-anxiety in Australia about the state and status of ‘the child’. The sexually abused child sits at the centre of this story and carries a heavy burden with respect to the past and future of the white Australian nation. The recuperation of that child to a state of innocence, repeatedly, as stories of its abuse keep returning to our front pages and political agendas, is necessary for the reproduction of the white nation. This article shows that the Hollingworth drama is entwined with the current politics of motherhood and fatherhood and the carriage of national feeling and temporality through the performances of these always racialised identities. Attending to the politics of the historical construction of the child, and the idealised parents who abuse or protect it (but never allow this child a voice or a sexuality of her or his own), thus becomes a part of the project of accountability to the past which has also occupied public life in Australia over recent years.

Article Details

Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Barbara Baird, Flinders University

Barbara Baird is Head of the Department of Women’s Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, a university built on the land of the Kaurna people. Her research has focused on the history and cultural politics of sexuality and reproduction in Australia and the mutually constitutive nature of the politics of sexuality, gender, race and nation. She has recently edited a special issue of Australian Feminist Studies on ‘the child’.