elizabeth strakosh on the radical centre of contemporary australian indigenous affairs


Elizabeth Strakosch, ‘Contemporary Indigenous Affairs: Seeking the Radical Centre’, Australian Journal of Politics & History 59, 4 (2013).

bit in lieu of abstract

Indigenous policy in Australia appears to be following a pattern. Decades-long bipartisan stability breaks apart in rapid, highly partisan and controversial shifts to an alternative paradigm. A new consensus forms, and as the dust settles, public and academic commentators seek to make sense of the changed landscape and their role in it. This happened in the 1970s move from assimilation policy to self-determination, and we have just lived through it once again. For thirty years, the self-determination era prioritised social reconciliation, political and cultural recognition, collective land rights and support for Aboriginal self-management via a growing Indigenous NGO sector. The Howard government dismantled this policy assemblage piece by piece, beginning with challenges to the reconciliation process around 2000, accelerating with the abolition of ATSIC and the bureaucratic “quiet revolution” in 2004, and dramatically concluding with the Northern Territory Emergency Response in 2007 (the “Intervention”). The federal government openly presented the Intervention as the start of a new policy phase of normalisation, in which rights politics and cultural recognition could no longer trump material disadvantage. Policy focus narrowed to remote Indigenous communities as sites of dysfunction and suffering, and to the task of bringing these communities into mainstream economic and social systems by whatever means necessary.


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