Aboriginality and the Northern Territory intervention

Macoun, Alissa (2012) Aboriginality and the Northern Territory intervention. PhD thesis, University of Queensland.

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This thesis examines the construction of Aboriginality in recent public policy reasoning through identifying representations deployed by architects and supporters of the Commonwealth’s 2007 Northern Territory Emergency Response (the intervention).

Debate about the Northern Territory intervention was explicitly situated in relation to a range of ideas about appropriate Government policy towards Indigenous people, and particularly about the nature, role, status, value and future of Aboriginality and of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. This project involves analysis of constructions of Aboriginality deployed in texts created and circulated to explain and justify the policy program. The aim of the project is to identify the ideas about Aboriginality deployed by the intervention’s architects and supporters, and to examine the effects and implications of these discourses for political relationships between Indigenous people and settlers in Australia.

This thesis will argue that advocates of the Northern Territory intervention construct Aboriginality in a range of important ways that reassert and reinforce the legitimacy of the settler colonial order and the project of Australian nationhood, and operate to limit Aboriginal claims.

Specifically, it is argued that in linking Aboriginality to the abuse of Aboriginal children, the intervention’s advocates and supporters establish a political debate about the nature and future of Aboriginality within a discursive terrain in which the authority and perspectives of Indigenous people are problematised. Aboriginality is constructed in this process as both temporally and spatially separated from settler society, and in need of coercive integration into mainstream economic and political arrangements.

Aboriginality is depicted by settler advocates of intervention as an anachronism, with Aboriginal people and cultures understood as primitive and/or savage precursors to settlers who are represented as modern and civilised. As such, the communities seen as the authentic home or location of Aboriginality represent a threat to Aboriginal children as well as to settlers. These constructions function to obscure the violence of the settler order, provide justification or moral rehabilitation for the colonising project, and reassert the sovereignty of the settler state. The resolution offered by the intervention’s advocates is a performance or enactment of settler sovereignty, representing a claim over and through both the territory of Aboriginal people and the discursive terrain of nationhood.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 65357
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Northern Territory Emergency Response, intervention, Aboriginality, settler colonialism, Australian nationalism
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy (160501)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600) > Australian Government and Politics (160601)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600) > Political Theory and Political Philosophy (160609)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Indigenous Studies Research Network
Institution: University of Queensland
Deposited On: 15 Jan 2014 02:03
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2014 02:03

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