Of pizza ovens in Arnhem Land: The state quest to restructure Aboriginal labour in remotest australia

Of pizza ovens in Arnhem Land: The state quest to restructure Aboriginal labour in remotest australia Book Section

Labour Lines and Colonial Power: Indigenous and Pacific Islander Labour Mobility in Australia

  • Author(s): Altman, Jon
  • Secondary Author(s): Stead, Victoria, Altman, Jon
  • Published: 2019
  • Publisher: ANU Press

Abstract: In this chapter, I home in on the last issue of anticipated labour mobility for employment as the least likely option for the Aboriginal people with whom I have worked over the past four decades in very remote localities where there are few or no paid jobs. I know one place, an outstation in western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory called Mumeka, extremely well. I lived there in 1979 and 1980 and have visited almost every year since. Much of my work as an anthropologist has been with people who constitute a community defined, in part, by their traditional ownership of the area around Mumeka and, in part, by their shared use of Kuninjku, a dialect of a regional pan-dialectical language called Bininj Kunwok.2 The only paid employment at Mumeka for a long time now has been for a teaching assistant. To get paid employment, Mumeka residents have either to migrate to the nearby township of Maningrida, where there are few available jobs, or further afield, or somehow economically develop their outstation and surrounds to generate jobs.I begin this chapter by revisiting some observations on a brief visit to Mumeka in July 2012 that, six years on, I interpret as a pivotal moment when I saw a particular form of economic development being introduced. I have made several presentations between 2012 and 2014 using this ethnographic material but, for a variety of reasons that will become apparent as the narrative unfolds, including disbelief at what I was observing, I have not published this material until now.3I commence with an observation about remote development for employment and then try to make some analytic sense of this. I look to provide some historical and regional contexts for what I saw. I then explore Kuninjku regimes of work under colonial conditions and in the postcolonial present, and examine some possible explanatory theories for interpreting a form of recolonisation that is occurring in the name of modernising development and employment creation. I end with a postscript that provides a brief update of the consequences that have unfolded since that pivotal moment to which I now turn.

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Suggested Citation
Altman, Jon, 2019, Of pizza ovens in Arnhem Land: The state quest to restructure Aboriginal labour in remotest australia, Book Section, viewed 19 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=15851.

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