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Panel abstracts

Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies (IPAE)

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Histories of economic relations

Chair: Ian Keen

CD Rowley's writings, which arose out of the Aborigines Project of the Social Sciences Research Council of Australia, brought about a sea-change in the recognition of Indigenous involvement in the colonial economy. As well as competition and conflict over land and its resources and the appropriation of Aboriginal women by sealers, Rowley recorded Aboriginal participation in several sectors including the provision of labour on small farms, the pastoral industry and other rural work in exchange for rations from governments agencies, in the cedar industry, and in land-clearing. He documents attempts to create self-sufficient Aboriginal settlements and to teach farming skills; and outlines the policy and legislative contexts including master-servant legislation in Western Australia. This panel includes papers which bring current perspectives and new research to bear on the history of a variety of sectors of the Australian colonial economy.

Exotic relations: camels and the articulation of Indigenous and settler social and economic forms

Chair: Petronella Vaarzon-Morel

Especially suited to the arid conditions of central Australia, camels were used by European explorers, Muslim contractors, hawkers, pastoralists, missionaries, doggers, mounted police, anthropologists, patrol officers and miners to variously penetrate, transport goods across and expand the settler frontier. Often Aboriginal people had a critical role in these ventures. Compared to the literature on Muslim cameleers (for example Kenny and Jones 2007, Rajowski 1987) the information on Aboriginal engagements with and around camels is surprisingly scant. Yet from the first contact period until the present, camels have had a pivotal role in the colonisation of desert Australia and the incorporation of Indigenous people into the State.

Not only did Aboriginal people engage with outsiders and the market economy through 'camel work', but they also captured and traded camels for use in the customary economy. In some communities today camels are hunted for pet meat as well as human consumption. Income is derived from market-related camel work such as commercial harvesting, tourism enterprises, and the sale of Indigenous crafts that incorporate camel hair and art depicting the camel image (Vaarzon-Morel 2008). The place of camels in Indigenous art is also intriguing.

It is clear that over the last hundred or more years camels, at once symbols of mobility and domestication, have figured prominently in Indigenous social, material and economic landscapes. In this session anthropological and historical analyses draw on film, photographs, oral history, visual art and textual sources to explore the role that Aboriginal engagements with and around camels have played in the intercultural economy.

Economy and material culture

Chair: Michael Pickering

Material culture mediated relations on the frontier, both within and between Indigenous people and 'settlers'. It is implicated in all aspects of relations – indeed some emphasise the materiality of linguistic discourse itself. Material traces of interaction and relations provide key evidence of those relations; and it is evidence of this kind that finds its way into museums. The exhibition- based representation of Indigenous participation in post-contact economies has long been neglected by exhibiting institutions. A challenge for collecting and exhibiting institutions is how to present the stories of cross-cultural economic engagements to their audiences. For example: What should we collect? How should the objects be used? What stories can be told? How should the stories be delivered to our audiences?

The transformation of relations and transactions within and around missions and stations, fringe camps and towns

Chair: John White

Throughout Australian history, Indigenous Australians have been forced off country by a range of processes including pastoral expansion, the intensification of land use and land enclosure, and the subsequent decrease in property sizes. In many cases Indigenous subsistence economies became less viable, and settlement on the fringes and margins of towns, was a matter of survival. In New South Wales, fringe camps were often located on river banks close to sources of seasonal employment, and offered an alternative to the restrictions found on government-managed stations.

The transition to a sedentary life on missions produced a significant structural and ontological shift and a new social and economic order. The rise of the outstation movement and associated transitions in government attitudes towards Indigenous land tenure and welfareism produced a second monumental shift in socio-cultural and economic conditions. On eastern Australian missions and stations the availability of outside work produced very different social and economic forms to the experience of church-administered, ration-based economies in the north.

This session aims to explore the relationships between fringe camps and towns in both the historical and contemporary contexts. It will include papers that examine the supply of labour from fringe camps to nearby industries and intercultural relations involved in town transactions. The session also aims to examine the character of intercultural relations on and around Indigenous institutional communities and the range of transactions produced in a variety of spatial and temporal contexts, and the range of transactions occurring within institutional settlements, including rationing, the maintenance of customary economies and the development and transformation of labour relations with nearby industries and communities.

Transitions from no wage to low wage and CDEP

Chair: Anthony Redmond

Papers in this session explore contrasting but inter-related histories of transitions in employment conditions in a variety of pastoral and mission contexts, from the dependence on Aboriginal labour on the part of missions in the Top End, through the effects on residents of missions and pastoral stations of the introduction of award wages. More recently the interplay between 'welfare' and 'workfare' has become significant, not least in the context of CDEP schemes. Contributors examine the effects of these changes, as well as other conditions affecting employment conditions.

Stolen wages and the contemporary efforts to secure recompense

Chair: Fiona Skyring

Stolen wages refers to Indigenous wages, savings and government pensions and benefits that were withheld, underpaid or appropriated — effectively stolen — by government agencies and employers. It was a one way transfer of economic resources, with far more wealth generated through Aboriginal workforce participation than was ever returned to them in terms of wages or government funded services and entitlements. The papers in this panel describe the ways in which this was done in Queensland, Victoria and NSW, and address contemporary efforts to secure recompense for Stolen Wages.

Local enterprise and Indigenous communities

Chair: Christopher Lloyd

Papers in this panel address a range of issues and questions to do with local enterprise in, or impinging on, Indigenous communities. The local enterprises examined range from bush produce, where distance from markets, transport costs and other factor affect conditions of production, to aquaculture, where issues of management of marine environments come to the fore. The structures considered range from individual Indigenous entrepreneurs in small-scale enterprises to Aboriginal corporations in relation to local leaders. Theoretical issues to be discussed include the classification of types of Indigenous entrepreneur, theories of the resilience and flexibility of social systems, the theory of hybrid economy, and the applicability of Foucauldian theory of governmentality.

Conflicts over development

Chair: Deirdre Tedmanson

Papers in this panel address a range of issues and questions to do with economic development in Indigenous communities. Some development draws on pre-existing Indigenous skills and values to varying degrees; one area where such skills have come to the fore is the market for Aboriginal art. Issues to be discussed include the development of alternative economies in remote communities, skills needed in the management of Indigenous workers in a mining context; conflict within Indigenous communities over local development; and the roles and funding of Aboriginal art centres.