Abstracts for Issue 1, 2009
Social Engineering and Indigenous Settlement: Policy and demography in remote Australia
In recent years neo-liberals have argued that government support for remote Aboriginal communities contributes to social pathology and that unhindered market engagement involving labour mobility provides the only solution. This has raised questions about the viability of remote Aboriginal settlements. While the extreme view is to withdraw services altogether, at the very least selective migration should be encouraged. Since the analytical tools are available, one test of the integrity of such ideas is to consider their likely demographic consequences.
Accordingly, this paper provides empirically based speculation about the possible implications for Aboriginal population distribution and demographic composition in remote areas had the advice of neo-liberal commentators and initial labour market reforms of the Northern Territory Emergency Response been fully implemented. The scenarios presented are heuristic only but they reveal a potential for substantial demographic and social upheaval.
Aspects of the semantics of intellectual subjectivity in Dalabon (south-western Arnhem Land)
This paper explores the semantics of subjectivity (views, intentions, the self as a social construct etc.) in Dalabon, a severely endangered language of northern Australia, and in Kriol, the local creole. Considering the status of Dalabon and the importance of Kriol in the region, Dalabon cannot be observed in its original context, as the traditional methods of linguistic anthropology tend to recommend. This paper seeks to rely on this very parameter, reclaiming linguistic work and research as a legitimate conversational context. Analyses are thus based on metalinguistic statements - among which are translations in Kriol. Far from seeking to separate Dalabon from Kriol, I use interactions between them as an analytical tool. The paper concentrates on three Dalabon words: men-no (intentions, views, thoughts), kodj-no (head) and kodj-kulu-no (brain). None of these words strictly matches the concept expressed by the English word mind. On the one hand, men-no is akin to consciousness but is not treated as a container nor as a processor; on the other, kodj-no and kodj-kulu-no are treated respectively as container and processor, but they are clearly physical body parts, while what English speakers usually call the mind is essentially distinct from the body. Interestingly, the body part kodj-no (head) also represents the individual as a social construct - while the Western self does not match physical attributes. Besides, men-no can also translate as idea, but it can never be abstracted from subjectivity - while in English, potential objectivity is a crucial feature of ideas. Hence the semantics of subjectivity in Dalabon does not reproduce classic Western conceptual articulations. I show that these specificities persist in the local creole.
Health, death and Indigenous Australians in the coronial system
Belinda Carpenter and Gordon Tait
This paper details research conducted in Queensland during the first year of operation of the new Coroners Act 2003. Information was gathered from all completed investigations between December 2003 and December 2004 across five categories of death: accidental, suicide, natural, medical and homicide. It was found that 25 percent of the total number of Indigenous deaths recorded in 2004 were reported to, and investigated by, the Coroner, in comparison to 9.4 percent of non-Indigenous deaths. Moreover, Indigenous people were found to be over-represented in each category of death, except in death in a medical setting, where they were absent. This paper discusses these findings in detail, following the insights gained from the work of Tatz (1999, 2001, 2005) and Morrissey (2003). It also discusses a further outcome of this situation - the over-representation of Indigenous people in figures for full internal autopsy.
Finding your voice: Placing and sourcing an Aboriginal health organisation’s published and grey literature
It is widely recognised that Aboriginal perspectives need to be represented in historical narratives. Sourcing this material may be difficult if Aboriginal people and their organisations do not publish in formats that are widely distributed and readily accessible to library collections and research studies. Based on a search for material about a 30-year-old Aboriginal health organisation, this paper aims to (1) identify factors that influenced the distribution of written material authored by the organisation; (2) consider the implications for Aboriginal people who wish to have their viewpoints widely available to researchers; and (3) assess the implications for research practice. As part of researching an organisational history for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, seven national and regional collections were searched for Congress’s published and unpublished written material. It was found that, in common with other Aboriginal organisations, most written material was produced as grey literature. The study indicates that for Aboriginal people and their organisations’ voices to be heard, and their views to be accessible in library collections, they need to have an active program to distribute their written material. It also highlights the need for researchers to be exhaustive in their searches, and to be aware of the limitations within collections when sourcing Aboriginal perspectives.
Radiocarbon dates from the Top End: A cultural chronology for the Northern Territory coastal plains
Sally Brockwell , Patrick Faulkner, Patricia Bourke, Anne Clarke, Christine Crassweller, Daryl Guse, Betty Meehan, and Robin Sim
The coastal plains of northern Australia are relatively recent formations that have undergone dynamic evolution through the mid to late Holocene. The development and use of these landscapes across the Northern Territory have been widely investigated by both archaeologists and geomorphologists. Over the past 15 years, a number of research and consultancy projects have focused on the archaeology of these coastal plains, from the Reynolds River in the west to the southern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the east. More than 300 radiocarbon dates are now available and these have enabled us to provide a more detailed interpretation of the pattern of human settlement. In addition to this growing body of evidence, new palaeoclimatic data that is relevant to these northern Australian contexts is becoming available. This paper provides a synthesis of the archaeological evidence, integrates it within the available palaeo-environmental frameworks and characterises the cultural chronology of human settlement of the Northern Territory coastal plains over the past 10 000 years.
Ladjiladji language area: A reconstruction
Ian Clark and Edward Ryan
In this reconsideration of the Ladjiladji language area in northwest Victoria, we contend that while Tindale’s classical reconstruction of this language identified a fundamental error in Smyth’s earlier cartographic representation, he incorrectly corrected that error. We review what is known about Ladjiladji and through a careful analysis demonstrate not only the errors in both Smyth and Tindale but also proffer a fundamental reconstruction grounded in the primary sources.