On neoliberal settler colonialism: Paul J. Dornan, Australian Indigenous Policy in the Neoliberal Age: Reassessing ‘Indigenous’ Responsibility, PhD dissertation, Swinburne University, 2020


Abstract: A neoliberal paradigm has shaped Australian Government Indigenous policy over the last twenty-five years. Neoliberal policy proscriptions are one part of a wider dialectic of domination that shapes indigenous/settler relations within Australia. This dialectic includes hegemonic processes of social and material domination, resulting in the imposition of a narrative that focuses on ‘responsibility’, imposes neoliberal economics, and apportions ‘blame’ for disadvantage on Indigenous communities through an agreement-making regime that relies on ‘consent’ to appropriate Indigenous cultural identity. This neoliberal notion of responsibility hampers and restricts possibilities for genuine reconciliation because it perpetuates a settler-colonial logic and heralds the triumph of settler cultural identity, a prospect that requires the demise of Indigenous autonomies.

The colonization of these autonomies is here explored through case-study analysis of the Noongar Agreement in Western Australia and the Victorian treaty process. In these processes neoliberal responsibility as accountability is used to transform the Indigenous estate. This is resisted by some Indigenous peoples. This thesis explores how Indigenous resistance to neoliberal logics constitutes ‘decolonising’ practices that facilitate an Indigenous reclamation of a diverse ‘responsibility’ through the articulation of an unsurrendered Indigenous alterity. These responses are premised on a self-affirmation that promotes an emancipatory Indigenous process of self-determination. This project challenges neoliberal ideologies by emphasizing Indigenous expressions of self-identity, what it sees as an Indigenous reclamation of ‘responsibility’. It also highlights the settler state’s failure to fulfill its responsibility to Indigenous peoples.

Genuine decolonization processes challenge the ‘practical reconciliation’ orthodoxy that has dominated political discourse over the last twenty-five years. To promote decolonization, this project uses a qualitative case-study analysis to highlight the limitations of neoliberal Indigenous policy and to inform a more inclusive approach to reconciliation through the promotion of a differentiated citizenship model. This model formalizes Indigenous alterity in policy and in a series of clan-based treaties that recognize Indigenous sovereignty.

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