Indigenous participation in Australian frontier economies
(P27)
Location E
Date and Time 9th December, 2008 at 10:30

Convenor

Ian Keen (Australian National University) Ian.Keen@anu.edu.au
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Short Abstract

The panel will examine Indigenous involvement in the Australian economy and resulting hybrid economies, across a broad range of times and places from historical and anthropological viewpoints. Themes will include changing exchange networks, conflicts over property, and comparative settler economies.

Long Abstract

Indigenous Australians have been largely invisible in many economic histories of Australia. Where they have been mentioned, topics include differences in concepts of property, frontier violence, and the pastoral industry. Variation both in Indigenous economy and Indigenous participation in colonial and national economy has been generally neglected, and Indigenous people are regarded as having been largely excluded from the market economy, except for the pastoral industry. There is now a sizeable gap between the economic histories that largely omit Indigenous participation in the colonial economy, and the large number of individual studies that document this involvement. The proposed panel will examine Indigenous involvement in the Australian economy and resulting hybrid economies, across a broad range of times and places from historical and anthropological viewpoints. The panel arises from an ARC linkage project on the topic, and interim research results will be presented. Themes will include changing exchange networks, conflicts over property, comparative settler economies, and engagement in coastal economies. Other papers on this broad theme are invited, including research on other settler economies including New Zealand.

Discussant: Jon Altman

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The Emergence of Australian Settler Capitalism in the 19th Century and the Disintegration/Integration of Aboriginal Societies: Hybridization and Local Evolution Within the World Market

Author: Christopher Lloyd (University of New England) chris.lloyd@une.edu.au

Short Abstract

An examination of Aboriginal-Settler capitalist convergence in colonial contexts in Australia that explores the usefulness and applicability of 'hybridity' through several examples of 'frontier' economic structures.

Abstract

Australian settler capitalism emerged under the tutelage of the British state within its geopolitical and capitalist dynamics in the early 19th Century. The landmass of Australia was 'cleared' of impediments to pastoral and other extractive capitalism and the Aboriginal inhabitants were marginalised and decimated. But the great barrier to unfettered capitalist accumulation within the settler mode of production was that of labour, as Wakefield and Marx understood. Labour was far from homogenous and the search for suitable supplies roamed across the world. Meanwhile, the Aboriginal Australians managed to remain as a living presence in the frontier districts and recent research and understanding is rediscovering the hybrid local economic forms that emerged in many places, often in the interstices of the settler world and in an uneasy oppositional alliance with local settler communities. Aboriginal people supplied labour and developed other economic relations with settlers in many places. This paper examines some of this recent research and writing and develops an argument about how these hybrid local economic formations were able to emerge and survive within the expanding world market of the 19th Century. This new account has important resonances for contemporary debates about the nature of 19th and 20th Century settler capitalism in Australia and the place of Aboriginal people in Australia today.

Conflicts over property at King George Sound

Author: Ian Keen (Australian National University) Ian.Keen@anu.edu.au

Short Abstract

The paper examines the relationship between accounts of conflict over property on the colonial frontier using a universalistic metalanguage, and the contrasting Aboriginal and British property concepts evident in records of the frontier of the Southwest. It explores the question whether universal concepts underly the differences.

Abstract

Certain accounts of conflict over property on colonial frontiers use a metalanguage that assigns similar values and motives to actors of radically different cultures. Anthropological approaches to property, however, tend to emphasise cultural differences. Are there universal concepts underlying property concepts across cultures, and if so how are they developed in contrasting institutional frameworks? The paper explores these issues with reference to conflicts over property recorded by Captain Collett Barker at King Georges Sound in the southwest of Western Australia, where Aboriginal people entered into exchange relations with the British garrison in the late 1820s. A key issue for Barker was 'trust'.

The appropriation of Aboriginal land and labour at Karunjie Station, north western Australia

Authors: Anthony Redmond (ANU) anthony.redmond@anu.edu.au
Fiona Skyring fskyring@westnet.com.au

Short Abstract

This paper describes how a major pre-colonial centre for Aboriginal ritual and economic exchanges in north-western Australia became transformed into a labour camp for the pastoral and sandal-wood economies which evolved in this area in the early 1920s in the wake of settlement by de-mobbed veterans of the British Army.

Abstract

This paper describes how a major pre-colonial centre for Aboriginal ritual and economic exchanges in north-western Australia became transformed into a labour camp for the pastoral and sandal-wood economies which evolved in this area in the early 1920s in the wake of settlement by de-mobbed veterans of the British Army. The analysis combines the perspectives of an anthropologist and an historian to explore how indigenous and settler notions of spatiality and temporality in the north-eastern Kimberley region became articulated to sustain an uneasy accommodation for over forty years. This approach is intended to counter a strong tendency in Aboriginal studies to privilege experiences and imagery of spatiality over temporality as though these two could be considered in isolation from each other. The issue of transformations of indigenous trading networks alongside the rapid commoditisation of time and space in the colonial context allows these two imaginary schemata to be treated as interdependent.

Dingo scalping and the frontier economy in the north west of South Australia

Author: Diana Young (University of Queensland) djbyoung@uq.edu.au

Short Abstract

During the early decades of the twentieth century intrepid bushmen made a living from collecting the government bounty on wild dog (dingo) skins. These men, so called doggers, were the first non indigenous people to take up residence, albeit illegally, on the last tracts of Aboriginal land left unleased to settlers in the central reserves. Doggers needed the skills of Aboriginal people whom they paid in goods such as tea, tobacco, flour, metal axes and clothing, to hunt the dingo. Exchange with doggers was frequently the way that Aboriginal people obtained settler goods. H.H. Finlayson wrote that dingo skins were a sort of currency in central Australia. In 1937 the newly established Ernabella Mission intervened in this trade by offering Aboriginal people the full bounty thereby cutting out the doggers as middle men.

For Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people hunting for dingo on an annual seasonal basis continued into the 1960s. This enabled both returning to their own country and the receipt of cash payment for the scalps that they could translate into store bought and highly desired goods.

This paper considers the role of dogging in a frontier economy but also in an economy of images. It examines the role that dingo scalping played for Anangu ( Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people) in re imagining themselves at a time of cataclysmic change during the first half of the twentieth century.

Abstract

During the early decades of the twentieth century intrepid bushmen made a living from collecting the government bounty on wild dog (dingo) skins. These men, so called doggers, were the first non indigenous people to take up residence, albeit illegally, on the last tracts of Aboriginal land left unleased to settlers in the central reserves. Doggers needed the skills of Aboriginal people whom they paid in goods such as tea, tobacco, flour, metal axes and clothing, to hunt the dingo. Exchange with doggers was frequently the way that Aboriginal people obtained settler goods. H.H. Finlayson wrote that dingo skins were a sort of currency in central Australia. In 1937 the newly established Ernabella Mission intervened in this trade by offering Aboriginal people the full bounty thereby obviating the need for doggers as middle men.

For Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people hunting for dingo on an annual seasonal basis continued into the 1960s. This enabled both returning to their own country and the receipt of cash payment for the scalps that they could translate into store bought and highly desired goods.

This paper considers the role of dogging in a frontier economy but also in an economy of images. It examines the role that dingo scalping played for Anangu in re imagining themselves at a time of cataclysmic change.

The Torres Strait pearling industry: sheltered workshop or cultural hothouse?

Author: Jeremy Beckett (Sydney University) jb526@bigpond.net.au

Short Abstract

The paper traces the transformation from engagement in the pearling industry in the Torres Strait under 'internal colonialism', through the collapse of the industry and reliance on the subsistence economy, to the move to employment on the Australian mainland. A common theme is the mediation of relations between employers and employees by Islanders.

Abstract

As an 'Internal Colony' the Torres Strait Pearling industry enabled the continuation of a marginal industry in an otherwise high labour-cost economy, and enabled several decades in which the 'new' Torres Strait culture could be consolidated. A majority of workers in the industry had no direct contact with the Anglo-Australians who controlled it, effectively 'at arm's length'. Rather the relation was mediated by a few Islanders, effectively indigenizing the industrial system as far as Islanders were concerned. The decline and eventual collapse of the industry in the 1960's initially forced men back into the subsistence economy, but with a sense that they needed and were entitled to the commodities to which they had become accustomed over the preceding three generations. The opening up of employment opportunities on the mainland provided not only an alternative avenue, but cash incomes which did not depend on subsistence production to be sufficient. However, much of the work could be achieved through adapting pre-existing ties among Islanders, dealings with employers being mediated by a few individuals.

Realities, simulacra, and the appropriation of Aboriginality in Kakadu’s tourism

Author: Chris Haynes (University of Western Australia) cdhaynes44@gmail.com

Short Abstract

The paper examines the way in which Kakadu is promoted as an Aboriginal place, and yet what is promoted bears little resemblance to either contemporary Aboriginal culture or economy.

Abstract

The tourism economy of the Northern Territory’s Top End is estimated to generate about $400 million annually, of which I estimate Kakadu National Park generates about $100 million. Yet my estimates also show that traditional owners and other employees of the park receive less than $3 million annually, about ninety percent of which is paid in park wages and rent to traditional owners, with the remainder being generated directly from tourism sources.

In this paper I problematise how Kakadu’s Aboriginality has been appropriated as a means of promoting both the Park itself and the Top End generally, yet how representations of ‘Aboriginal culture’ are difficult to reproduce for park visitors. I argue that what passes for Aboriginal culture in the promotional material has very little to do with contemporary Aboriginal culture or contemporary Aboriginal economy in the Park region. The thin nexus that existed when Kakadu was declared nearly three decades ago has become even more tenuous – with the Park’s famous Seasonal Aboriginal Calendar, for example, being no more realistic as a signifier of contemporary culture than the park’s ancient rock art. I use this example to explore ways in which more realistic connections might be made between tourism and the Aboriginal economy.

'Who you is? Work and Identity in Aboriginal NSW'

Author: Lorraine Gibson (Macquarie University ) lgibson@scmp.mq.edu.au

Short Abstract

This paper will offer an ethnographically grounded examination of the intersections between work/employment and identity for Indigenous people living across rural, regional and urban locations in New South Wales, Australia.

Abstract

Ideas and practices relating to work, productivity, leisure and consumption are a source of much disagreement and ill-feeling between Indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia. For dominant western cultures, labor in its most common guise of 'work' offers a cogent means through which people come to know themselves and become known to others (Crawford 1985). How does this notion translate to Indigenous social realms? This paper will offer an ethnographically grounded examination of the intersections between work/employment and identity for Indigenous people living across rural, regional and urban locations in New South Wales, Australia. What does it mean to be a productive and valued person within Aboriginal society and in what ways is this tied to and/or antithetical to participation in the mainstream economy? How are Aboriginal people appropriating ideas of work and productivity as a means to forging a particular identity?

The Aboriginal Heritage Industry:Ka-Boom or Busted!

Author: Kado Muir (Aboriginal Heritage Consultants P/L) kadomuir@aboriginalheritage.com.au

Short Abstract

I consider some of the disputes for Aboriginal people interacting with mining and resource companies through Aboriginal Heritage processes in Western Australia.

Abstract

Mining is not a sustainable industry. It is exploitative, destructive and unstoppable. Yet it is powerful, it is the lifeblood of the Boom in Western Australia and is fueling the prosperity of the Australian Nation. In most cases mining operations are located at the modern day Australian frontiers. Mines are developed where Aboriginal people are the main if not the only long term residents of localities. The developments of mines often come at a cost to Aboriginal residents and people are forced to consider weighing up the opportunities against the losses and at the end of the day resign themselves to the inevitability of mining. In most cases participation in an Aboriginal Heritage Survey for anything ranging from $300 to $600 per day is the only income community members may derive from a mining project. This income is paid begrudgingly on behalf of the miners and the community people are often compromised on their ability to maintain the integrity of their culture, their sacred sites and their responsibility for future generations. This paper will consider the real costs and shed light on the lack of benefits flowing from mining in Australian frontier environments to the long term Aboriginal residents of those areas. It identifies Aboriginal Heritage as an Industry and considers the issues and implications of Aboriginal participation in this integral yet under valued aspect of mining and resources development.

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Aboriginal Entrepreneurialism in the context of land use (mining) agreements

Author: Sarah Holcombe (University of Queensland) sarah.holcombe@anu.edu.au

Short Abstract

An exploration of the issue of Aboriginal entrepreneurialism in the context of the remote Pilbara economy (WA) that is dominated by the iron ore mining boom. How do a range of individual Aboriginal people negotiate benefit from various land use agreements in the Pilbara.

Abstract

In this paper I'd like to explore the issue of Aboriginal entrepreneurialism in the context of a remote economy that is dominated by a regional mining boom. In the Pilbara region of Western Australia Aboriginal people, as Native Title holders, are today enmeshed in a political economy that hinges on the individual's relationship between their Aboriginal 'community' and a series of complex land use agreements over their lands. The land use agreements made between Aboriginal groups and mining companies, and related commercial opportunities, have inspired a class of Aboriginal business people or entrepreneurs. By analyzing the strategic engagement of several of these entrepreneurs with various mining company interests, it is clear that there is no 'type' of Aboriginal entrepreneur, rather there is considerable entrepreneurial diversity. However, the socio-cultural milieu within which these entrepreneurs operate suggests that there are parameters that structure this engagement. An analysis of these parameters offers insight into the motivations of these entrepreneurs and the tensions between 'success' and 'community' membership.