Indigenous Policy Failure and its Historical Foundations
Public policy aimed at addressing the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal Australians over the past three decades has largely failed. Much research has focused on this policy failure and the historical circumstances that created the socio-economic marginalisation of Aboriginal peoples. This essay revisits these two areas with the intention of offering a fresh perspective. Firstly, it is proposed that in order to understand policy failure in the context of a relationship characterised by marked power disparity, the understandings, assumptions and motivations of the holders of power require scrutiny. Previously, research on policy failure has generally concentrated on the stated intensions, implementation and outcomes of policy, rather than these more subjective conceptualisations of the problem (and therefore, the solution) held by policy professionals. However, in the very political landscape of colonial era Australia, the historical perspective fails to adequately analyse or explain the gap between rhetoric and reality, the disjunction between stated intent, actions and outcomes, and gulf between the letter of the law and its enforcement.