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Grant ID

Northern Futures Collaborative Research Network

Abstract

Northern Australia has a population of 1.2 million people across nearly half the continental landmass. It is home to many diverse communities of people, including Aboriginal nations, descendants of European, Melanesian and Asian settlers and more recent arrivals. It is an area of globally significant natural beauty with unique ecologies. It also has strategic and economic importance to Australia. A contentious debate over the future of the region can be observed within three themes: Big development, big conservation and policies seeking Indigenous wellbeing. We argue that if the agendas associated with each of these themes and their associated agents are driven forward in isolation, the tensions between the three will compromise the health, wellbeing and economic coherence and vitality of the North. This paper presents an overview of the present governance landscape with a critique of the role of neoliberalism and neoliberal governmentality. It identifies some of the ways in which ‘other’ social values and ways of knowing are either marginalised or rendered invisible in these narratives of governance and development. In highlighting the tensions that result from these exclusions, we argue there is a need to both understand these dynamics, and move towards an explicit commitment to open, genuine dialogue, inclusive of the communities that reside in northern Australia.

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