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The Australian National University

The 'real economy' and the 'hybrid economy': Rival visions of Indigenous economic development and cultural survival

Presented by

Katherine Curchin


Haydon Allen G052 (Quadrangle, near ANU Union), Australian National University


Wednesday, 2 October 2013
12.30 - 2.00pm

In the contemporary debate on how to address the poverty and disadvantage of Indigenous Australians living in remote regions, Noel Pearson and Jon Altman are two of the central intellectual figures. Pearson, an Aboriginal leader from Cape York Peninsula, advocates for greater integration of Indigenous people into what he calls ‘the real economy’. Meanwhile Altman, an anthropologist with a background in economics, has been suspicious of efforts to encourage Indigenous Australians to integrate into the mainstream labour force. He has produced an alternative model of development – the ‘hybrid economy’ model – which he suggests is more in keeping with the aspirations of many Aboriginal people. This paper compares Pearson and Altman’s rival visions of Indigenous economic development. It argues that among the most important contrasts in their thinking are differences in how Pearson and Altman conceptualise cultural difference, cultural change and cultural survival. Though both men are advocates for Indigenous self-determination they possess different ways of thinking about Indigenous choice and aspiration. Together these difference leads them to focus on different threats to Indigenous autonomy and cultural survival, resulting in different positions on such policy issues as welfare reform, education, home ownership and urban migration.

Katherine Curchin is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research School of Accounting & Business Information Systems, College of Business and Economics, ANU.

Audio [MP3]8.5 MB

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