Historians and their publics rely on certain shared beliefs. One of these commonly held convictions, and a foundational paradigm of Western historical thought, is that history and progress are irrevocably interconnected and mutually entwined. We tend to assume that the present will be better than the past. It would be fair to say that, for most societies, the hope for a better future propels us forward. This conviction is, however, sorely tested when present and past collide. Nowhere is this more evident than when nations publicly apologize for historical injustices, excesses and indiscretions, especially those implemented under the globalizing reach of the nineteenth-century British imperial project. This chapter considers public gestures of apology and reconciliation at the level of the nation-state – in particular, the process of saying ‘sorry’ to Indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand – each of which may be understood more generally as attempts to respond to the aftermath and ongoing consequences of British colonization. It does this through examining what is termed here ‘the ethics of public apologies’; this is an approach that considers the resources necessary for ensuring genuine and lasting apologies on the one hand, while being alive to the obstacles faced by protagonists on the other. The chapter approaches this analysis comparatively, through a very brief examination of the colonial histories of both countries, followed by a more detailed critique of each of the reconciliation and apology processes in question, particularly as they have developed over the last decade or so in Australia and the past thirty years in New Zealand.