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Type: Theses
Title: Reconsidering Aboriginal welfare dependency: The Howard Government years through the lens of Postcolonial theory
Author: Gordon, Zoe Claire
Issue Date: 2017
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: The Liberal-National Coalition Government led by Prime Minister John Howard (1996 to 2007) brought with it a new approach to Indigenous affairs. At the centre of the Howard Government’s approach sat the concept of Aboriginal welfare dependency. This concept arguably has as much currency within Australian politics today as it did during the Howard years, and yet the Howard Government’s normalisation of the concept of Aboriginal welfare dependency remains relatively under-examined. This thesis fills this gap and critically analyses the Howard Government's development of the concept over its four terms, through the lens of Postcolonial theory. In conjunction with Postcolonial theory, this thesis implements Carol Bacchi’s ‘What's the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) approach to policy analysis, as a way of structuring-in the application of Poststructuralist and Postmodernist insights around the power of ideas. This fruitful though unusual pairing brings together Postcolonial theory’s oppositionary stance towards colonialism in all its various forms, and the streamlined Poststructuralist questioning of Bacchi's highly compatible WPR approach. Using this dual approach, this thesis deconstructs and rethinks the Howard Government's representation of the problem of Aboriginal welfare dependency, with Australia’s ongoing colonial context very much in mind. A clear picture of the problem representation is developed through a close examination of the Howard Government's policy material and public statements. The fate of the successful community-controlled Indigenous employment program – the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme – is charted through this process. The implicit assumptions within the Howard Government's representation of the problem of Aboriginal welfare dependency are unpacked, and its neoliberal and colonial origins are traced. A portrait emerges of Aboriginal welfare recipients as failed economic actors, responsible for their own poverty. This thesis then considers how the situation could be read differently. Flaws within the concept of welfare dependency itself are identified, calling into question the usefulness of the concept. It is argued that in employing this flawed concept to explain Aboriginal unemployment, the Howard Government neglected to recognise the ongoing colonial context in Australia, as a problem in its own right, and as a cause of Aboriginal unemployment. In contrast, this thesis highlights how current levels of Aboriginal welfare use are directly related to the historic economic marginalisation of Indigenous people and the imposition of an alien and uncompromising economy (factors which had been ameliorated to a degree by the now dismantled CDEP scheme). By detaching Aboriginal unemployment from this broader colonial context, the Howard Government took a decisive step away from the acknowledgement and redress on which Aboriginal economic security and decolonisation both rely.
Advisor: Beasley, Chris
Johnson, Carol
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2017
Keywords: Carol Bacchi
What's the problem represented to be?
CDEP, Community Development Employment Projects
Indigenous policy
Aboriginal affairs
discourse analysis
Provenance: This thesis is currently under Embargo and not available.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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