Belonging Together: Dealing with the politics of disenchantment in Australian Indigenous policy

belonging together cover

Patrick Sullivan

Oct, 2011
Anthropology and Archaeology
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$39.95 RRP incl. GST


Belonging together provides a unique overview of the trajectory of current Indigenous policy, with Sullivan advancing a new consolidated approach to Indigenous policy which moves beyond the debate over self-determination and assimilation. Instead, he suggests that the interests of Indigenous peoples, settlers and immigrants are fundamentally shared. He proposes adaptation on both sides, but particularly for the descendants of settlers and immigrants, to allow them to embrace the framing of their identity by an Indigenous presence.

Sullivan is also critical of the remote control of Indigenous lives from metropolitan centres, with long lines of bureaucratic oversight that are inherently maladaptive and inefficient. Instead, he proposes regional measures for policy implementation and accountability.

Belonging together’s empirical studies of current policy implementation are an important contribution to the anthropology of policy and public administration.

Dr Patrick SullivanDr Patrick Sullivan’s work within Indigenous organisations has involved practical research and advice on issues of land use and distribution, community control of development, and governance. He is currently Research Fellow in Indigenous Regional Organisation, Governance and Public Policy at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Adjunct Professor at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (ANU).

Reviews and endorsements

Sullivan traces in some detail the tortuous path of administrative changes at federal, state/territory and local levels that have actually comprised this process. Not a task that many anthropologists would be prepared to do, the book is thereby a valuable tool for understanding in a systematic way the administrative challenges that social change in Indigenous communities present – to both Indigenous residents and to engaged non-Indigenous Australians…this is a book packed with information and well worth reading for those engaged with Indigenous issues.

-- Diane Austin-Broos, Oceania publications

It does a number of interconnected things: gives an empirical account of the impact of New Public Management upon Indigenous Affairs and of the period between the end of ATSIC and the beginning of the Intervention; argues that the policy extremes of assimilation and self-determination need to be 'consolidated' into a more balanced policy approach; and examines the nature of Indigenous-settler relationships. In considering public administration, policy and politics in a single frame, it makes a unique and important contribution.

-- Elizabeth Strakosch, Australian Journal of Politics and History

For me, it was one of those 'lightbulb books', producing many flashes of understanding and enlightenment. It is also likely to be of interest for those with a concern for policy processes more broadly and particularly that elusive holy grail of 'whole-of-government' approaches.

-- Melissa Sweet, Inside Story

Sullivan believes that non-Indigenous Australians limit their identity as Australian because they do not perceive Indigineity as a factor in being Australian or that Indigenous peoples are essential to the identity of other Australians. He calls for a consolidation of the relationship between Indigenous Australians and settler and immigrant Australians.

-- Paul Newbury Bonzer On-line Monthly, November 2011


Last reviewed: 10 Jul 2020