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Law on Australia’s Northern Frontier: The Fall and Rise of Race
Canadian Journal of law and Society (2009)
  • John H Chesterman, University of Melbourne
  • Heather A Douglas, University of Queensland
This article compares the two most significant paradigm shifts in the administration of Aboriginal affairs in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Welfare Ordinance 1953 (NT) constituted a then unique, if fundamentally disingenuous, attempt to reclassify the diminished legal status of most Indigenous Territorians as being caused not simply by their racial heritage but by their level of social need, while the 2007 legislation behind the ‘Northern Territory intervention’ has jettisoned the pretence of racial neutrality in the government’s bid to curb the breakdown of ‘community standards and parenting behaviours’ in many remote Indigenous communities. The article argues that while both initiatives had similar fundamental aims – encouraging remote Aboriginal people to adopt social habits generally evident in non-Indigenous society – the decision to jettison racial neutrality has ushered in a new era of race relations in Australia, where race has openly and formally been re-established as a marker of legal inferiority.
  • Indigenous Australian,
  • assimilation,
  • racial discrimination,
  • Northern Territory
Publication Date
Citation Information
John H Chesterman and Heather A Douglas. "Law on Australia’s Northern Frontier: The Fall and Rise of Race" Canadian Journal of law and Society Vol. 24 Iss. 1 (2009)
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