Axing ATSIC: Australian Liberalism and the "Government of Unfreedom"

University of Sydney, Australia
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Journal Article
Policy and Society, 2005, 23 (4), pp. 57 - 81
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The Howard Government s axing of ATSIC has attracted widespread criticism from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, much of it articulated in terms of an argument that we are witnessing a return to assimilation in Australian Indigenous affairs. This paper cautions against such a return to assimilation analysis of Indigenous policy and administration. Rather, I argue that the changes are more accurately understood in terms of a shifting configuration of liberal and advanced liberal forms of governance. Both modes of governance (and the forms of political reasoning and technologies of government they manifest) are typically understood as premised on liberal practices of freedom, but the axing of ATSIC is just one example of how they are shown in Australian Indigenous affairs simultaneously to manifest specifically authoritarian liberal practices of unfreedom .
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