From a White Australia to an Aboriginal New Deal
in Governing natives
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When John McEwen was appointed as the Australian Minister for the Interior, with responsibility for the Northern Territory, in late 1937, he was presented with a series of questions and reports. He faced three crises – material, administrative, and of public power – and made sense of them by reading the Payne–Fletcher Report into northern pastoralism alongside Thomson’s Reports into the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land. He met with Aboriginal activists from Victoria and New South Wales, as well as anthropologists Elkin and E. W. P. Chinnery. And he was pushed by the letter-writing campaigns of Aboriginal rights activists and white humanitarians who directed his attention to the techniques of native administration elsewhere in the British Empire and the settler world. These varied influences coalesced in a response to the crises of the Northern Territory that articulated indirect rule in a settler colony; a response that modified the mode of hegemony. By the end of 1938, McEwen released a new policy titled the Aboriginal New Deal, which proposed a series of reforms to Aboriginal administration. This chapter examines its model of Aboriginal reserves, which were governed as sites of reproducing native societies, producing future labourers for pastoral stations and providing a social force for the reproduction of pastoral relations.

Governing natives

Indirect rule and settler colonialism in Australia’s north

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