Ideology, evidence and competing principles in Australian Indigenous affairs: From Brough to Rudd via Pearson and the NTER



Sanders, Will

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Australian Council of Social Services


This paper tracks the recent rise of an ‘ideology vs evidence’ discourse as a way of describing good and bad Indigenous affairs policy. It suggests that a more useful way of thinking about Indigenous affairs is the analytic of three competing principles: equality, choice and guardianship. The paper suggests that dominant debates in Indigenous affairs balance these principles and move between them over time. Using a fourfold categorisation of ideological tendencies, it also suggests that different tendencies of thought about settler society and its relations with Indigenous societies occupy different positions in relation to the three competing principles. Finally, using the work of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board as an example, the paper examines the role of evidence in Indigenous affairs. Evidence, it argues, always needs to be contextualised: it is always a part of arguments or debates and needs to be understood in relation to the much larger issue of balancing competing principles.



Competing principles; Ideology and evidence; Indigenous policy




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Australian Journal of Social Issues

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