Closing the Gap: some unsettling assumptions - A remote region case study

Ann Ingamells

Abstract


Australian governments are committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and other Australians, yet progress is slow. This paper draws links between these policy efforts and a study of a remote shire in Western Queensland where indicators suggest better than usual socioeconomic outcomes for Aboriginal people. The study conducted over a three year period, and with significant input from Aboriginal people, examines the pathway through which these outcomes have been achieved. Local accounts suggest relations between long term families of both cultures have been a significant factor and are the outcome of an iterative dynamic between people, place and resources, that has a long history, and path dependence. Despite almost full engagement of Aboriginal people in employment over the past 100 years however, indicators do not yet converge, suggesting policy targets are ambitious. The persistent ‘gap’ may be the effect of insistence on making equality conditional on acceptance of settler norms, at significant cost to the lived expression of Aboriginal culture. Whilst this community has managed these tensions, nevertheless their experiences imply that access to community services in remote areas, rather than being a right, is precariously dependent on the vicissitudes of relationship, and these may often depend on the choices Aboriginal people make in response to assimilatory pressures.

Keywords: 'Closing the Gap', remote settlements, Aboriginal, Indigenous, intervention, governmentality

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