The public problem of Aboriginal gambling: winning the struggle for an urban space

Document Type


Publication details

Christie, M & Young, M 2011, 'The public problem of Aboriginal gambling: winning the struggle for an urban space', Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 253-272.

Peer Reviewed



Gambling by Aboriginal people is increasingly identified as a significant public problem in Australia, eliciting responses mainly concerned with measurement and harm minimisation. We adopt the utilitarian philosophy of John Dewey to critically examine the way this 'problem' is socially constructed. We recast our roles as pragmatic researcher-activists in the ongoing struggle to have Aboriginal practices taken seriously. We draw particularly on the work of a group of senior Yolnu Aboriginal consultants and re-present their story of gambling alongside other research on the Aboriginal use of urban gambling spaces. This helps us develop a nuanced explication of the public problem, one that challenges existing discourses and proposed solutions. We identify an Aboriginal space being produced within existing casinos which is only supported reactively by government and casino owners, and met with anxiety by community service providers. We propose the radical idea of Aboriginal urban gambling venues as indicators of what is needed for a successful, state-supported, socially inclusionary and non-exploitative space for Aboriginal people, and what obstacles may stand in the way of achieving this. Through this process, we assess how, as participant researchers, we can help to reformulate of the public problem in a way that is more closely aligned to Aboriginal needs and aspirations.

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