By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Belonging Together: Dealing with the politics of disenchantment in Australian Indigenous policy
By Patrick Sullivan (Aboriginal Studies Press, $39.95, softcover, 147 pages)
An across-the-board, positive scrutiny, Belonging Together describes current Indigenous affairs policy in Australia, focusing on the time after the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 2004.
Written during a “period of deep change in Aboriginal affairs administration”, Dr Patrick Sullivan says that at the time of writing, the public at large was “disenchanted with Aboriginal Australia, particularly the corporate expression of Aboriginal life in representative organizations”.
“Part of this disenchantment is the perception that Aboriginal organisations have failed their communities as expression of self-determination or self-management, and part of it is because they have done too well imposing aboriginal needs and desires on the wider population.”
Adjunct Professor at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (ANU), Dr Sullivan provides an overview of the path of current policy, thereby, advancing a new consolidated approach to Indigenous policy which moves beyond the debate over self-determination and assimilation.
In arguing that the interests of Indigenous people, settlers and immigrants be shared, with adaptation on both sides, he proposes particular adjustments for the descendants of settlers and immigrants.
This book “attempts to move beyond the neo-assimilationist position of the governments of the previous decade in Australia and the radical minority-rights approach against which it was formulated. A necessary part of this is a greater integration of white Australia with Aboriginal Australia, a reordering of our subjective understanding more than our structural relationship”.
He is critical of the remote control of Indigenous lives from metropolitan centres, with long lines of ‘bureaucratic oversight that are inherently maladaptive and inefficient’. Instead, he proposes regional measures for policy implementation and accountability.
An enormous challenge looms ahead, however, since “inter-relationship requires understanding about how consolidation differs from integration or assimilation, pure and simple: it is a two-way process”.
Edition 327, 21 August 2012
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