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Engaging Indigenous Economy

Engaging Indigenous Economy: Debating diverse approaches OPEN ACCESS

Volume: 35
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: ANU Press
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    Engaging Indigenous Economy
    Book Description:

    The engagement of Indigenous Australians in economic activity is a matter of long-standing public concern and debate. Jon Altman has been intellectually engaged with Indigenous economic activity for almost 40 years, most prominently through his elaboration of the concept of the hybrid economy, and most recently through his sustained and trenchant critique of policy. He has inspired others also to engage with these important issues, both through his writing and through his position as the foundation Director of The Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy research from 1990 to 2010. The year 2014 saw both Jon’s 60th birthday and his retirement from CAEPR. This collection of essays marks those events. Contributors include long‑standing colleagues from the disciplines of economics, anthropology and political science, and younger scholars who have been inspired by Jon’s approach in developing their own research projects. All point to the complexity as well as the importance of engaging with Indigenous economic activity — conceptually, empirically and as a strategic concern for public policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-76046-004-4
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Will Sanders

    The engagement of Indigenous Australians in economic activity is a matter of long-standing public concern and debate. Jon Altman has made it the focus of an academic and public career spanning almost 40 years. First as an economist at Melbourne University and then as an anthropologist at The Australian National University (ANU), Jon explored issues of life, income and work among Indigenous Australians at geographic scales from the local to the national (Altman & Nieuwenhuysen 1979, Altman 1987). He tussled early with policy questions around mining, tourism, arts and homelands (Altman 1983, 1988; Altman & Taylor 1987, Altman et al....

  2. Part 1: The Hybrid Economy:: Theory, Practice and Policy
    • Geoff Buchanan

      In 2001, Jon Altman introduced the hybrid economy framework as a means of addressing the economic development problem faced by Indigenous people living on Aboriginal land in remote and regional Australia. For Altman, the distinctive economies in these locations—made up of market, state and customary components—were poorly understood ‘by politicians, policy makers and Indigenous people and their representative organisations alike’ (2001: v). The hybrid economy framework was subsequently depicted as a Venn diagram emphasising the linkages and interdependencies of the three overlapping sectors (see Fig. 2.1).

      Altman argued that to understand the hybrid economy required ‘a hybrid analytical...

    • Chris Gregory

      I have carried out fieldwork with Aboriginal people in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and India and it is from this comparative perspective that I cast my critical eye over Jon Altman’s concept of the hybrid economy. My title is a double twist on a critique Jon wrote of Nic Peterson’s notion of demand sharing (Altman 2011a). My critique is offered in the same spirit: to critique Jon’s ideas, not to celebrate or denigrate him as a person. I make three points.

      First, pure anthropology must precede public policy, description must precede prescription. When the issue concerns an economic policy, this...

    • Kim de Rijke, Richard Martin and David Trigger

      Under the long-term leadership of Professor Jon Altman, the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at The Australian National University has had an impressive publication output. The Centre has consistently focused on the important but challenging intersection of academic research and policy development relevant to Indigenous people in Australia. This paper engages with some of the intellectual concepts employed in the Centre’s recent work, concentrating particularly on the volume edited by Jon Altman and Seán Kerins (2012)People on country: vital landscapes, Indigenous futures. The book promotes one of CAEPR’s key pieces of recent policy advice: that Indigenous involvement...

    • Nicolas Peterson

      The future of Aboriginal people living on remote lands either in the large ex-mission and government communities or in small outstations is problematic both for government and ultimately for the people themselves. Not only are these people remote from mainstream economic activity in many, but by no means all cases, but, by and large, there is no regional demand for their labour. Were people much better educated, perhaps 15–25 per cent could be employed in administration and service delivery in their communities, if all jobs were Aboriginalised. Such a situation is at least a generation or two away even...

    • Katherine Curchin

      One of Jon Altman’s preoccupations in recent years has been the impact of neoliberal ideology on Indigenous affairs policy. He has been a critic of the policy goal of incorporating more Indigenous Australians in remote regions into the mainstream economy, believing that Indigenous Australians joining the labour market are destined for the least desirable place within it. He has also argued that the values orientation promoted by market society is at odds with the kin-based societies in which many Indigenous people live today. Altman maintains that an ideological commitment to the market has blinded many policymakers to the viable alternatives...

    • Kaely Woods

      It was an honour to speak at the conference that celebrated the contribution of Jon Altman, the founding Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), and to hear others reflect on his work. My lifelong interest and involvement in Indigenous issues, particularly sustainable economic development on terms that meet the needs of Aboriginal and other Australians, has motivated me to undertake a PhD somewhat later in life.

      While Altman was establishing his research career, I was at The Australian National University (ANU) studying undergraduate economics part-time, juggling study with full-time work. The welfare and public economics that...

    • Annick Thomassin

      Over the last decade, a number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and activists worldwide have come to embrace the concept of life projects as a holistic, local and dynamic alternative to the dominant paradigm of development (see Blaser et al. 2004). Emerging in the late 1990s, notably through the work of Gow (1997) and Escobar (1998), the notion of life projects is described as ‘being about the possibility [of Indigenous peoples] defining the direction they want to take in life, on the basis of their awareness and knowledge of their own place in the world’ (Blaser 2004a: 30). These projects,...

    • Seán Kerins and Jacky Green

      The Abbott government is seeking to sever Indigenous peoples’ cultural, spiritual and economic relationships with their land and other natural resources, while also breaking down Indigenous social relationships and kin structures. We are told this is being done ‘to remove the passive welfare trap’. Facilitating the involuntary mobility of Indigenous Australians off their ancestral lands to areas where better education and job opportunities exist is not new. It was also one of the underlying principles of the 2008 Council of Australian Government’sNational Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap)(COAG 2008: E-79).

      It is also evident in the recent Forrest...

    • Marianne Riphagen

      Jon Altman has written extensively about the Indigenous visual arts industry, including the roles played by community-owned Indigenous art centres and the importance of government support for artists and enterprises operating at considerable distance from key markets (Altman 2005, 2007a). He has repeatedly pointed to the economic, social and cultural benefits of government investment in art centres which accrue not just to Indigenous artists and to those who market their work but also to individuals and institutions in sectors like hospitality and tourism (Altman 2007b). Observing that Indigenous art centres constitute hybrid institutions which combine myriad commercial, cultural and social...

    • Stephen Muecke and Ben Dibley

      Sometimes a visit to a country town can give you a feel for larger issues facing the nation. Broome is remote, strongly Indigenous, multicultural and its population swings seasonally from between 15,000 in the steamy wet to 40,000 in the dry, when people migrate north from the southern winter. As we research an ethnography for the Goolarabooloo people, who in 2013 successfully opposed the building of a gas plant on James Price Point, the need to think about competing economic claims arises.

      On the one hand, the Western Australian Government, keen to industrialise the Kimberley, worked closely with the Woodside...

  3. Part 2: Critiquing Neoliberalism and the Guardian State
    • Shelley Bielefeld

      Income management is a controversial and highly politicised policy initiative. Originally introduced as part of the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention, income management was applied only to Indigenous welfare recipients in prescribed areas.¹ In 2010 the government developed new income management,² which they claimed was non-discriminatory (Commonwealth of Australia 2009: 12787). New income management has several compulsory categories and can also be entered into voluntarily (for fuller discussion of problems with these specific types of income management see Bielefeld 2012: 539–56). However, Indigenous peoples continue to be heavily over-represented amongst those subject to income management (Senate Estimates 2014: 1), which...

    • Kerry McCallum and Lisa Waller

      Our essay uses a media studies lens to examine the ascendancy of neoliberal policy agendas in Indigenous affairs. The Media and Indigenous Policy project¹ has been investigating the dynamic interplay between news media and the complex, politically sensitive and uneven bureaucratic field of Indigenous affairs. A particular focus has been to investigate the news media’s power to construct problems and suggest solutions in the Indigenous policy field. This essay draws on that research to argue that conservative news outlets have sponsored a narrow range of Indigenous voices to articulate and promote neoliberal policy agendas to government. We examine howThe...

    • Emma Kowal

      The gap between my privileged, middle-class upbringing and the oppressed people of the world drove me to write Amnesty letters on flimsy blue air mail paper in high school and sent me into activist groups as a medical student at the University of Melbourne in the early 1990s. In 1996 at the Canberra protests against the Howard government’s first budget, it dawned on me that, as an Australian, the gap of Aboriginal disadvantage was the one that should trouble me most.

      Along with some smart, politically aware friends, I helped to start an Indigenous solidarity group back on campus, working...

    • Leon Terrill

      When theForrest Reviewwas released in August 2014, few people would have been surprised to find that it included several recommendations with respect to land tenure reform in Aboriginal communities (Forrest 2014: 58–60). This was the latest instalment in an ongoing public dialogue about Aboriginal land reform in Australia. It is a discussion that began in earnest a little over a decade ago and has continued (at times quietly, at times prominently) throughout the period since. Since 2006, it has been accompanied by several sets of reforms: township leases, five-year leases, housing precinct leases, ‘secure tenure’ policies and,...

  4. Part 3: Land, Housing and Entrepreneurship:: Altman Applied
    • Ed Wensing

      The current debate about Indigenous land tenure reform is skewed toward a neoliberal market view of private home ownership and capital accumulation at the expense of communal forms of tenure. I come at these issues from a very different perspective and background. As a land use planner, land administration and land tenure have been an integral part of my professional life since the early 1970s.

      In 2011, I was lead researcher in a study undertaken for the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs on whether the Aboriginal Lands Trust estate in Western Australia could be transferred to Aboriginal people within...

    • Louise Crabtree

      Housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is an ongoing focus of public policy, which recently has been oriented towards the twin objectives of transitioning community housing into arrangements mirroring public housing, and the creation of mortgagee home ownership. Within this policy landscape, this contribution reflects on research that is concerned with exploring perpetually affordable housing and community benefit in diverse contexts.

      The research rests on a combination of radical democracy, complexity theory, and work on diverse or hybrid economies. These frameworks offer a coherent suite of considerations focused on diversity and contextuality with regard to community governance, knowledge,...

    • David P Pollack

      This paper examines the 1985 Altman review of the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account (ABTA) and evaluates the relevance of key recommendations and findings 30 years on.¹ It focuses on three key issues raised in the review:

      Are Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) payments public moneys or Aboriginal private moneys?²

      Should Mining Withholding Tax (MWT) be levied on ABA payments?

      Should the ABA be an autonomous statutory body? I will argue that these questions are as relevant today as they were in 1985, noting that the current ABA has many ambiguous and problematic policy legacies but also the potential to be an...

    • Pamela McGrath

      Australia’s native title regime is, by any measure, a significant social phenomenon. In the two decades since theNative Title Act1993 (Cwlth) (NTA) was passed into law, thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their advocates have actively pursued many hundreds of native title claims; at time of writing, 243 of these had been successful (National Native Title Tribunal 2014a). Collectively, these cover more than 2 million square kilometres (25 per cent) of the total Australian land mass (National Native Title Tribunal 2014b). And yet, despite the increasing numbers of Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs) established...

    • Jock Collins, Mark Morrison, Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, Rose Butler and PK Basu

      There are many pathways to Indigenous entrepreneurship in Australia: partnerships between corporate Australia and Indigenous corporations/communities; Indigenous community-owned enterprises; Indigenous social enterprises and cooperatives; and Indigenous private enterprises. One of the most significant developments in the Australian Indigenous economy over the last decade has been the increasing importance of Indigenous enterprises and Indigenous entrepreneurs. As Foley (2006) has persuasively argued, not all Indigenous enterprises are run by community organisations and they are not all in the outback. The majority of Indigenous enterprises are private enterprises. Analysing census data from 1991 and 2011, Hunter (2013) provided evidence that the number of...

  5. Part 4: Personal Reflections
    • Benedict Scambary

      Within two weeks of arriving at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) in 2002 I found myself at a planning retreat at Charlottes Pass. As a new student of Jon Altman, I did not quite know what to expect and certainly did not know how to behave. I was a slightly angry and jaded refugee from the applied land rights and native title scene in the Northern Territory, and found myself immediately resentful of the perceived largesse of Canberra: its roads, its public buildings, its rules, its affluence, its power, its whiteness and, in particular, the number of...

    • John Nieuwenhuysen

      It was a privilege and pleasure to be allowed to speak at the end of the remarkable conference, Engaging Indigenous Economy: Debating Diverse Approaches, and to offer a few reflections on the brilliant career of my friend, co-author and colleague of Melbourne University days, Professor Jon Altman.

      Jon has worked on Indigenous development issues in Australia since 1976. He has made extremely important contributions which have been recognised in several ways, including a highly prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Professorial Fellowship and election as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. His role as foundation Director of...

    • Jon Altman

      When you talk about retiring, one question people start asking is how did you get to work in this area and stay in it for so long? So let me answer this question briefly.

      I came to Australia from New Zealand in 1976 as a young academic with a Master’s degree in economics from the University of Auckland and a job as a senior tutor at the University of Melbourne. My chair of department and supervisor was John Nieuwenhuysen. I had previously migrated with my family from Israel via India to New Zealand, so I had some cultural complexity in...