Aboriginality and the Northern TerritoryIntervention
University of Queensland
Architects and supporters of the Northern Territory Emergency Response(the intervention) mobilised a range of ideas about Aboriginality to introduceand justify the policy program. These representations link Aboriginality toabuse of Aboriginal children, establishing a debate about the nature andfuture of Aboriginality in a context that limits the discursive authority of Aboriginal people. Aboriginality is represented as savage and in need of settler-imposed control, and also primitive and in need of development. Theseconstructions understand Aboriginality temporally, situating it in the past butproviding moral justiﬁcation for coercing Indigenous people into the settlerpresent. Aboriginality is also constructed spatially in this discourse, withprescribed communities framed as the location of both authentic Abo-riginality and of threatening disorder. The intervention is framed as extendingsettler authority over this troubling terrain, containing and redeemingAboriginality through inclusion in the settler nation’s moral order.
Prominent Aboriginal academic and activist Mick Dodson argued thatrepresentations of Aboriginality have operated as ‘weapons and symptoms of the oppressive relationship that exists between Indigenous people and colonisingstates’, authorising policies of management and control of Indigenous peoples:
Where there was a need to create a boundary between ‘primitive’ and ‘modernman’, to legitimise ‘progress’, to justify particular economic and politicaldevelopments, to promote a national identity for the colonial nation, or morespeciﬁcally to control, manage or assimilate Indigenous cultures, Aborigin-ality has been made to ﬁt the bill. In other words, Aboriginality became partof the ideology that legitimised and supported the policies and practices of thestate (Dodson 1994, 7).
Indigenous people have also deployed and contested diverse conceptions of Aboriginality, forming ‘a source of political struggle both within Aboriginal
Alissa Macoun is a PhD candidate in the School of Political Science and International Studies atthe University of Queensland. This article is drawn from her ongoing doctoral research.
Australian Journal of Political Science,Vol. 46, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 519–534
ISSN 1036-1146 print; ISSN 1363-030X online/11/030519-16
2011 Australian Political Studies AssociationDOI: 10.1080/10361146.2011.595700
D o w n l o a d e d b y [ G r i f f i t h U n i v e r s i t y ] a t 0 3 : 5 0 2 4 O c t o b e r 2 0 1 1