Still paying the price for benign intentions? Contextualising contemporary interventions in the lives of Aboriginal peoples


The design and implementation of the Commonwealth government’s intervention into Northern Territory Indigenous communities and the Queensland government’s welfare reform trials in Cape York have been presented as radical departures from previous policies by federal and Queensland governments respectively. This article critically examines these claims by reference to past protectionist and assimilationist policies. It examines the ideology underpinning the federal intervention and considers the legislation implementing the intervention in terms of what it effects (and, with respect to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), what it undoes) as well as the unsatisfactory manner in which it was sped into law. It is argued that the intervention neither addresses new issues in Indigenous welfare, not does it operate – conceptually – in a radically different manner to previous Indigenous welfare policies. The article then carefully examines certain aspects of the intervention – governance, medical examinations, prohibitions on pornography and alcohol, housing and land reforms, and social welfare payments – concluding that there are worrying commonalities on many levels between the intervention and past protectionist and assimilationist policies. The article concludes by suggesting that the Australian government appears to have learnt very little from past failed policies, and that any continuation of the intervention must be evidence-based and adapted to the true needs of Indigenous Australians.

Copyright Information

Caution (disclaimer) Please read these terms of use carefully before accessing, using or participating in this website and its contents and any contents made available by the University of Melbourne on any distribution website, such as iTunes U. By accessing, using or participating in these sites you signify you have read these terms and conditions and agree to be bound by and comply with them. If you do not agree to be bound by these terms, please promptly exit all such sites. The University of Melbourne reserves the right to modify these terms at any time and will publish such modified terms online at this site or elsewhere on line. By continuing to access a site after such modifications have been published you signify your agreement to be bound by such modified terms. The University of Melbourne has used reasonable endeavours to ensure that material contained on this web site was correct at the time the relevant page was created, modified and published. However: 1.the University gives no warranty and accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or the completeness of the material; 2. no reliance should be made by any user on the material, but instead the user should check for confirmation with the originating or authorising faculty, department or other body; 3.and the University reserves the right at any time to make changes as it deems appropriate. If you believe copyrighted work is available on the University of Melbourne network in such a way that constitutes copyright infringement, or a breach of an agreed licence or contract, please notify us: ?Your notification must include sufficient information to enable us to identify the copyrighted work that is the subject of the claimed infringement or, if multiple copyrighted works are involved, a representative list of such works and; ?information reasonably sufficient to permit us to locate and access such material and; ?information reasonably sufficient to permit us to contact you, such as your name, address, telephone number and email address. ?An indication of whether you are the owner of the content, or if you are acting on their behalf. Details of all parties must be supplied including the relationship between them. ?Indicate what law (including country) is being transgressed. The University provides external links as a service to users of its web site. In providing an external link the University does not accept responsibility for or endorse the content or condition of any linked site. Copyright in any programs, content or other material made available by the University of Melbourne on distribution sites such as iTunes U, is owned by or licensed to the University of Melbourne. The terms set out on this webpage will apply to such programs, content or other material as if it were content or material available on this website. See our Copyright Terms for information about the terms on which you can use this material.