Native administration in the Northern Territory
A white minority in the national community
in Governing natives
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This chapter turns to Cecil Cook’s administration of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Cook was committed to pursuing a White Australia through Aboriginal assimilation: both biological and social. Through managing Aboriginal sexualities, particularly the marriage and sexual behaviour of Aboriginal women, he sought the biological absorption of Indigeneity into the settler community. And by confining Aboriginal people in urban sites of discipline, he worked towards their individuation which, in the settler imaginary, denoted their departure from ‘native society’. But interwar campaigns for Aboriginal rights increasingly emerged as counter-hegemonic movements. Aboriginal activists called for fundamental reform and improvement of their conditions all over the nation, imagining futures of modernity, dynamism, and sovereignty. White humanitarian movements translated these claims as licensing the implementation of what A. P. Elkin, Chair of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, termed the ‘indirect method’, demanding better government in the north. These social movements were sufficiently forceful and prominent as to call into question the legitimacy of Cook’s government, turning public opinion against his regime and generating a crisis of authority.

Governing natives

Indirect rule and settler colonialism in Australia’s north

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