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The Australian National University

The entangled relationship between Indigenous spatiality and government service delivery

Working Paper 41 / 2008

Abstract

The delivery of basic government services to remotely living and frequently mobile Indigenous populations is a highly contentious issue; one which has recently received considerable focus at a Federal policy level. Because of distinct motivations, frequencies, and spatialisation, Indigenous mobility practices in many rural and remote areas unsettle conventional Western frameworks of government service delivery, which assume relative sedentarisation. Many services are provided chiefly through fixed, permanent infrastructure such as hospital clinics and schools that promote and cater to single-locale, stationary lifestyles. In addition, neo-liberal cost pressures are reshaping service delivery models into more acute ‘hub and spoke’ configurations: services are increasingly withdrawn from rural and remote areas and concentrated in regional and metropolitan centres. Consequently, Indigenous people living in regional and remote areas and/or who continue to engage in frequent movements often have more sporadic and contested interactions with government service agencies.

This paper contends that understanding Indigenous spatiality is critical to redressing the inequitable and often inefficient nature of service delivery that has lingered in rural and remote Australia since colonisation began. Whilst the related literature acknowledges the effectual relationship between Indigenous mobility and service delivery, few published studies examine the substance of this relationship in any detail. Drawing on research in Yamatji country, Western Australia, this paper provides a thorough and focused examination of the relationship between Indigenous spatiality and the delivery of State housing, health and education services. The analysis is based on a careful engagement with the lived experiences of a group of Indigenous people in the region, and the service providers with whom they interact. By examining localised Indigenous mobility processes, and the challenges of servicing populations with diverse spatialities, the paper highlights the complex and often contested nature of the interface between mainstream services and Indigenous population dynamics.

ISSN: 
1442 3871
ISBN: 
0 7315 4940 6

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CAEPR Working Paper 413.5 MB

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