Distribution of Indigenous Population

That graph is from the 2001 census. One of the problems in Australian politics is that everything is viewed from the national level. From Imagining Australia:

If our Indigenous people comprised one tenth rather than one fiftieth of the population there would be widespread outrage about Indigenous disadvantage.

Yet indigenous people in the NT should be well catered for democratically as they are a significant minority making up over a quarter of the population. Unsurprisingly NT politics is very conscience of indigenous issues.

So why are the feds digging in the NT? Looks like a local issue to me.

This entry was posted in Interesting Graphs, Politics - national, Politics - Northern Territory. Bookmark the permalink.
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
16 years ago

Too true but little understood. Same for Jervis Bay but not sure if the ToyTown Act establishing Canberra’s “gov” obviates this.

Andrew Leigh
16 years ago

Cam, thanks for the kind quote (IA site is down, btw – we’re trying to fix it). However, I’m not sure that I fully grasp your point. You say that Indigenous politics should and does dominate the NT. But I’m not sure why this suggests that the Commonwealth shouldn’t intervene. I would’ve thought that for most voters, there’s a form of Commonwealth intervention that they’d be happy with. (Whether or not we like the current form of intervention is conceptually different from whether we think that intervention per se makes sense.)

16 years ago

Andrew, But Im not sure why this suggests that the Commonwealth shouldnt intervene.

I agree with the IA quote which is why I used it. The NT has the correct organisation for a significant minority to have decent representation politically in parliament. It is a different issue in the other states and nationally because they are such a small minority and probably have trouble getting their concerns heard over “Mothers for Ride-on Lawnmower Seatbelts”.

So the political intervention into the NT is into a political area where it is not needed. I am not arguing that the issues there should not be dealt with, but the political organisation of the NT as a representative democracy is the right one to have a large minority’s concerns taken into account.

I think it is indicative of the screwed up way we do federalism. We don’t let the structures actually work and instead everything is looked at from a national stand point. The feds dig in everywhere, and the state/territories constantly look for fed dollars. The Inquiry that prompted all this wanted fed dollars and instead they got the feds politics.

16 years ago

Jacques, Aboriginals live predominantly in the rural seats, which have been safe Labor seats since before the Dreamtime.

I couldnt find any demographic distribution data though I suspected that may be the case. If anything uneven distribution should make my point even more as the indiginous people in those electorates are more than just a 25% minority. The right political technology and organisation is in place.

A national government on the other hand, especially in a federalist form of organisation, is supposed to take care of international and intra-state issues.

derrida derider
derrida derider
16 years ago

Cam, that graph is useful if we want to talk about which states/territories have their local politics affected by indigenous issues. It’s grossly misleading, though, if we want to talk about indigenous issues at a federal level. NSW has the biggest population of indigenes, with both NSW and Qld each having more than twice as many as the NT. In fact, NT has only about one eighth of Australia’s indigenous population.

With all the recent fuss it’s worth remembering that the majority of aboriginals do NOT live in remote areas, but still face disadvantage. A bit more focus on the issues facing that majority would be no bad thing.

David Coles
David Coles
16 years ago

Cam – I agree that a ‘national government on the other hand, especially in a federalist form of organisation, is supposed to take care of international and intra-state issues.’

There is a government provided by a representative democracy in the NT with power to do most of the things that are needed. There are at least three major reasons for the failure of NT Government to achieve sustainable outcomes in relation to Indigenous disadvantage:

1. Federal/State financial arrangements keep the States and Territories in a pretty tight situation when you look at the range and cost of their responsibilities – notwithstanding the GST handover;

2. The Feds still maintain power over key ‘levers’ of change – the income security system particularly. I would not argue that this should be handed to the States/Territories but there is a need for cooperation and partnership. Successive NT governments have called for action similar to that now being undertaken by the Feds in respect of welfare payments;

3. The massive infrastructure deficit at the time of self-government for the NTG was not addressed in the 20 years following self-government. Neither, possibly, was there enough money available to address this deficit. We still have roads to major towns that are cut for up to 6 months every year.

Indigenous people make up 27% of the NT population and the issues that concern them are definitely front of mind issues for politicians and bureaucrats.

And Jacques – the CLP only lost the Daly electorate in 2001 after having held it and its predecessors for many years. It also lost MacDonnell in 2001. Both with overwhelming majorities of Aboriginal electors. People in these areas understand the power of their vote and are increasingly prepared to use it.