|Source/Publisher||Melbourne University law review 33 (1) 2009|
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.