On August 31, 2009, the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce launched Australia’s first national Aboriginal employment website.The chamber’s chairman, Warren Mundine, said that the site provided a platform for government, businesses and Aboriginal job seekers to work together to minimise Aboriginal unemployment. This effort highlights the attempts to ‘close the gap’ through neoliberal policies which see that by including indigenous people in the economy their welfare would improve. Neoliberal logics rely on a language of economic insecurity as justification for comprehensive reforms to increase competitiveness, efficiency and responsibility (Strakosch 2011), However as Green an Patel have disussed, relatedness is care value of indigenous culture with a strong preference for cooperation over competition, raising further doubt over the benefits of ‘economic engagement’ for ‘closing the gap’ in indigenous wellbeing through employment.
The website is available at www.indigenousjobsaustralia.com.au.
The forced closure of Aboriginal communities proposed by the Australian government this year has sparked social movements in protest. Facebook has been used to make their struggle known to a wide audience. Petray’s study ‘Protest 2.0 online interactions and Aboriginal activists’ examine the use of Web 2.0 to supplement ‘offline’ activism. The benefit of the internet is that it is a platform accessible even to traditionally marginalized sectors of society such as the remote Aboriginal communities (Kral 2010). Moe (2010) suggests this should make it easier for those at the political periphery easier access to the political core.Focusing on Indigenous Australia, Singleton et al. (2009) argue that interactive digital technologies like YouTube and Facebook can empower Aboriginal young people as they share their culture with an outside audience Garcia et al. (2009) point out that sites like facebook actually enhances the possibilities for the ‘presentation of self’ (Goffman, 1959). In other words, online environments provide people the opportunity to clarify who they are to their social networks, (Salimkhan et al., 2010; Strano, 2008) essentially fitting with goals of self determinism.
The articles discusses the rise of Facebook and other social networking sites as forms for cyber-activism. Facebook allows users to seamlessly merge their various interest political as well as social, as they post links to articles and events or publicly express their thoughts to their entire network of ‘friends’ The interactivity enabled by Web 2.0 serves to expand the ‘virtual we’ of Indigenous solidarity, encompassing not just Indigenous people but their supporters, and many sympathetic individuals from around the world.The sites demonstrated above link online and offline activism through the arrangement of marches and protests which provide a physical space where those who wish to be strongly involved in the movement can come together which Petray 2011 see’s as a crucial factor in making online social networking work for protests.
Rusty Stewart is a photojournalist and videographer with many years news and current affairs experience working for national and international newspapers, news agencies and magazines.More recently he has also focused on Community Cultural Development work within Australia for NGO’s, often with indigenous communities. Employers have included the Fred Hollows Foundation, The Torch Project, ICRC, and Amnesty International among others.
Over the last five years he has led documentary film and stills projects to deliver outcomes with the Yolngu and Jawoyn communities of Arnhem Land, the Barkindji communities of Northwest Victoria the Gunditjmara communities of Southwest Victoria, and the Ngaanyatjarra Communities in the western deserts of Australia. His full collection can be found on his Flickr page:
The images captured by Rusty in this album demonstrate the diversity of Indigenous people in Australia. The collection of images is a realistic depiction of the different groups spread across the land, each with their own ways of living, culture, traditions and language. There is a danger that current policy interventions take a whitewashing view of what is actually a heterogeneous population. Images that just focus on the hardship and low quality of life experienced by indigenous people living in remote communities, (such as Ingetje Tadros’ Kennedy Hill photographs) can be used as propaganda to legitimise assimilation policies. Rusty Steward includes photographs of the variety which is key to understanding the differing experiences of indigenous people.
Some of the photographs in the Flickr collection were taken in Utopia, a remote community in the Northern Territory of Australia. Utopia has been identified by one study to have have ‘unexpectedly good’ health, Rowley et al identified that all cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates were 40% to 50% lower than the NT average for Indigenous Adults. These results were unexpected given the wide spread poverty and unemployment. Anderson and Kowal (2012) argue that a combination of specific historical and social factors such as relatively late colonial occupation, intercultural practices associated with the pastoral industry , the absence of mission or government settlement, the persistence of small decentralized communities and the individuals personalities and histories of those connected to utopia have all contributed to the unique conditions. Rowley et al argued therefore that conventional socioeconomic measures such as income, employment and education neither explain the improvements to health nor can they be used as a universal measure of well being in the indigenous context. This example demonstrates the need for further anthropological study of indigenous communities; if Rowley et al’s 10 year study of Utopia revealed the need for a more targeted and appropriate understanding of the local factors it is likely that similar studies in communities elsewhere would reveal other locally contingent histories that determine well-being. Therefor a ‘one size fits all’ policy approach must be reviewed.