How has the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations represented and positioned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People?

Author:

Harbour, Tracey Ann, 2018 How has the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations represented and positioned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People?, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Abstract

During the last 50 years, successive governments have introduced and implemented different legislative frameworks, policies and administrative structures aimed at addressing the social, economic and welfare issues prevalent amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and communities. The interventions implemented by the State and the Commonwealth have been primarily predicated on Western settler values, institutions and beliefs which have subsequently influenced the way in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues are framed and talked about. The language and discourses used by government are neither neutral nor positive, but are reflective and formative of values and ideologies which are not always in the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People.

This study explores how colonial discourses act to maintain white colonial settler relations of paternalism and marginalisation and how such discourses continue to influence the way in which government bureaucracies, such as the Office of the Registrar of Corporations (ORAC) represent and position Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, their situation and their problems. This is done through an examination of the ways in which discourses and hegemony are reinforced historically, culturally and institutionally. Decolonising theory which privileges Indigenous knowledge, ways of doing and being, provides the framework in which to question and challenge the ideological beliefs and values that constitute the foundations of ORAC and to make problematic the discourses and frames that underpin the way in which the dominant elite such as ORAC represent and position Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Discourses are systems of statements within which the world can be known (Foucault, 1980). It frames the way a topic is represented, produces knowledge and shapes the perception that constitutes the way in which power operates, especially over those who are subject to the discourse (Hall, 1997).

It is within this context that I interweave my own experiences and the stories of how Aboriginal people challenge the discourses and ideologies espoused by ORAC in their yearly publications. My original contribution to knowledge is to assist Indigenous perspectives and interests by providing a lens in which to make sense of how government view and talk about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People within unequal power relations and how power is used to maintain and sustain the social privilege of the settler state.

Keywords: Indigenous governance; decolonising research, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Ben Wadham