"If Those Old Women Catch You, You're Going To Cop It”: Night Patrols, Indigenous Women, and Place Based Sovereignty in Outback Australia

Publisher:
African Criminology and Justice Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies, 2014, 8 (1), pp. 103 - 124
Issue Date:
2014
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Night Patrols (‘patrols’) are a uniquely Indigenous Australian form of community self-policing. Patrols do not fit neatly into established paradigms of ‘policing’ emanating from the Global North. They are not part of the apparatus of the state police, nor do they offer commodified private security services and, unlike mainstream police, they cannot legitimately call on a reservoir of coercive powers to ensure compliance. In this article we sketch out what we describe as the ‘contested space’ of Indigenous self-policing, as represented by patrols, through a postcolonial lens, paying particular attention to the role of Indigenous women’s agency in creating, nurturing and sustaining night patrol work within an Indigenous ethics of care and notions of wellbeing. Drawing on international critical postcolonial scholarship we tease out the links between patrol work and broader expressions of sovereign power embedded in Indigenous law. Our key contention is that there are learnings from the Australian experience for other postcolonies, where there are kindred debates regarding the balance between Indigenous and colonial systems of justice and policing. We highlight the experience of patrols in the Northern Territory (NT) where the policing of Indigenous space and place have become a key priority for the Australian Government after a major focus on issues of child abuse and family violence.
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