Aboriginal mobility and the sustainability of communities: Case studies from north-west Queensland and eastern Northern Territory

Aboriginal mobility and the sustainability of communities: Case studies from north-west Queensland and eastern Northern Territory Report

DKCRC Working Paper

  • Author(s): Long, S., Memmott, P.
  • Published: 2007
  • Publisher: Desert Knowledge CRC
  • Volume: 05
  • ISBN: 5

Abstract: Aboriginal people in remote and rural Australia are frequently moving between places. Mobility was and still is key to the maintenance of Aboriginal relationships to places, or country, and to the maintenance of social relationships. A distinct range of socio-cultural, economic and political factors and aspirations motivate these movements. There exists a culture of mobility amongst the Aboriginal population of Australia. Yet despite the widespread reporting of high mobility in the ethnographic and housing literature, relatively little is known of the nature of this culture of mobility and in particular its implications for services. The aim of this paper is to consider the role of mobility in sustaining and expressing Aboriginal attachments to places and social relations, as well as the relationship between mobility and service needs. The paper draws on case studies of Aboriginal mobility from an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) funded research project by Memmott et al (2004, 2006). This project examined the mobility of the Alpurrurulam community, which is based on a land excision in an eastern Northern Territory pastoral lease, and the mobility of the Aboriginal community of Dajarra, a small town in north-west Queensland. For both communities Mt Isa is a regional social and service centre and the Georgina River is their heartland. According to the ARIA classification, these places are located in remote and very remote Australia (ABS 2001). This classification is based on the relative distance an Australian population must travel to access a full range of services. However, from an Aboriginal perspective remoteness might also be defined as relative distance from one’s homeland or the ability or ease with which people can access their homeland(s). For the Dajarra and Alpurrurulam communities and in many other instances this would produce an inversion of the ARIA classification, that is, parts of Australia that are very remote in terms of service delivery are often highly accessible in terms of ‘home’ and ‘country’. Where relevant, this paper makes comparisons with the Tangentyere Council Research Unit’s recent study of population and mobility in the Alice Springs Town Camps (Foster et al 2005). In so doing a goal of this paper is to provide a foundation from which future projects, such as the Desert Knowledge CRC’s ‘Demand Responsive Services to Desert Settlements’, could further explore the tension between access to services and the maintenance of relationships with country in a manner that positively reflects the aspirations and service demands of remote Aboriginal communities (Memmott et al 2004:8–10; see Desert Knowledge CRC 2006).

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Suggested Citation
Long, S., Memmott, P., 2007, Aboriginal mobility and the sustainability of communities: Case studies from north-west Queensland and eastern Northern Territory, Volume:05, Report, viewed 15 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=4366.

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