Abstract: Objective. The objective of this paper is to explore the discourse of ‘community’ and its offshoots, ‘social capital’ and ‘community capacity building’, in the contexts of health service delivery to, and the health status of, Indigenous people in the Northern Territory of Australia, and to link this discourse to the wider context of social control and the management of diversity in a multicultural society. Design. The discourse is subjected to critical theoretical and historical analysis and comparisons are drawn between this and similar discourses in the immigration and settlement area. Results/conclusions. The constitution of Indigenous society as a series of ‘communities’ and the orientation of primary health care policy towards ‘capacity building’ has the effect, if not the intention, of depoliticising Indigenous health, whilst reproducing, legitimising and mystifying relations of white dominance and permitting the maintenance of a health service delivery system for Indigenous people which, in relation to need, is grotesquely underfunded and incapable of making serious inroads into the appalling health problems of the Indigenous population.