Phillpot, Stuart George
Aboriginal peoples' involvement in the pastoral industry of the Northern Territory
has been a feature of that industry almost since first contact between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people. However, whilst Aboriginal involvement in the pastoral industry has been celebrated in terms of their bush skills and their
qualities as stockmen, their association with the industry has always been ambivalent. For it was the pastoral industry that occupied and exploited their traditional land....[Show more] Aboriginal peoples' involvement in the pastoral industry was
both exploitative and oppressive as they were always restricted to fulfilling a
labour provision role. The development of Aboriginal people as owners and managers of pastoral cattle enterprises is relatively new, dating from the mid 1970s. This involvement has arisen in part through the policies directed at meeting Aboriginal peoples' land needs through various pastoral property acquisition policies, and in part through the privatisation of government and mission cattle projects. The policies that have supported Aboriginal involvement as owners and managers of pastoral properties
have varied over time ranging from support for employment, meat selfsufficiency
and commercial success, to an increasing focus on commercial success only. The increased emphasis of policy and program upon commercial success has had a number of outcomes. The number of properties receiving economic development support has been reduced, as has the actual number of operating beef cattle enterprises. In addition, herds on Aboriginal properties have been substantially reduced and there has been no real independent Aboriginal-owned
and operated pastoral sector established. This has occurred because, to a large extent, policy has ignored the biogeographical, social and industry factors that constrained the development of an Aboriginal-owned and operated cattle industry. The primary factor for the failure of the policies to develop a commercially successful Aboriginal owned, operated and managed cattle industry in the Northern Territory is that the policies and the programs that supported them did not support Aboriginal people in their multiple land use aspirations, which in many cases included cattle production.
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