Raphael Lemkin in the Outback: The state project to eliminate homeland living in remote Indigenous Australia

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

In the 1970s Aboriginal people were permitted and sometimes assisted to decentralise to live and struggle to make a living on their ancestral lands. But in the last decade homeland living has been discursively demeaned and policies have been put in place to undermine the possibility for residing and making a livelihood at the smallest remotest places scattered across Indigenous titled lands. It is paradoxical perhaps that as Indigenous territorial rights expand the state looks to eradicate possibilities for current and future generations to utilise the land and its resources to make a livelihood. In this wide-ranging seminar, presented as the 10th anniversary of the NT Intervention nears, Professor Altman draws on evidence from political discourse, policy documents and program implementation to outline the state project to eliminate the modern manifestation of a life way that he had previously theorised as a form of postcolonial economic hybridity.

Professor Altman will provide ethnographic evidence from his work in west Arnhem Land with Kuninjku people for the period 1979 to 2017 to demonstrate this creative destruction. Theoretically, he shifts to engage with the work of Raphael Lemkin in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944) to highlight techniques of genocide in various fields. Professor Altman will end by asking what remote living Aboriginal people can do to push back against this project of annihilation.

Jon Altman is a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University and an emeritus professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the ANU. He was the Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy at ANU 1990-2010 where he tried to master the art of combining evidence-based scholarship with political activism to influence policy. This seminar draws on his work in west Arnhem Land since 1979, including his 55th visit to the region in April 2017.