Accepted paper:

Culture as Therapy: Improving Aboriginal Children in Western Sydney


Gillian Cowlishaw (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

The multicultural social dynamics in Western Sydney include programs to improve Aboriginal children's educational achievements by 'giving back their culture.' What this idea implies, what it ignores and the practices it spawns will be examined as an example of 'the remediating state' in action.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on a study of multicultural social dynamics and the governing of Aboriginal people in the alleged cultural desert of western Sydney. Aboriginal culture is frequently being called upon to solve what are known as 'severe social problems', especially those of reluctant, recalcitrant or delinquent Indigenous school children. The notion of culture as therapy has proliferated in institutions, bureaucracies and organizations, and materializes at numerous public sites, promulgated by what Tess Lea calls 'the remediating state', including academic, educational and corrective services. In the face of the statistical evidence that Aboriginal children are seriously underperforming in schools, a series of ad hoc programs have been implemented, founded in the popular understanding of suburban Indigenous people as having lost their cultural roots. Indigenous children are being 'taught their culture' with some extraordinary and interesting consequences. Moreover, it is alleged that it works!

panel P05
Appropriating childhood: the current state of play