Larissa Behrendt: Why is overcoming Indigenous disadvantage so hard?


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In this Lunchbox/Soapbox presentation, prize-winning novelist, Professor of Law and 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year Larissa Behrendt addresses the lack of progress on Indigenous issues in Australia.

Behrendt argues for a closer examination of the claim that Aboriginal self-determination is a “failed experiment”. She also interrogates the case of the Northern Territory intervention, citing the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act as a turning point in sidelining the importance of human rights in a politicised, polarising and emotional debate.

Behrendt suggests that the idea of mutual obligation has been plagued by misguided incentivising and a less-than-thorough understanding of Indigenous needs.

Offering some key examples of self-improvement, she laments governments' dismissal of the capacity and creativity of disadvantaged communities.



23 Mar 2011

Filmed on:

17 Mar 2011


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3 comments so far:

Hello - Larissa was taken to task in the Q&A session, are video of these available?

Many thanks, Max.

04 April at 02:58PM

Hello Larissa,

This was a very interesting video that I could personally agree. Being in a social work degree, our studies revolve around policies that could do more harm than good towards the indigenous communities. It a shame that the government does not recognize or tend to ignore the negative impact of these policies. There have been many policies that implement self-determination for the indigenous community and mutual obligation towards the Indigenous community; however, these kinds of policies are just well written in order for Australians to know that the government are playing their part to take care of the indigenous issues. Nevertheless, things just don't look like what it seems. There are many statistics saying that Indigenous people are over representing the criminal justice system and over representing the child protection services. These are among the important issues that could be contributed from the poor implementation of policies. So, instead of being ignorant towards the policies that the government implemented towards the Indigenous community, I believe that if people work together to influence the decisions that have been put into place for the indigenous communities. Therefore, we should not be unaware of the issues surrounding the indigenous communities; they have gone through centuries of racism, exclusion and isolation. Time for a change!


Zila Ibrahim
18 September at 08:46PM

Professor Larissa Behrendt is spot on about what has to be in place for Aboriginal communities to be successful. One thing is culture in schools, at the school l work at ,Kurnai college the students learn their Culture through Dedlee Kultya dance sessions.Since we have had this at our school attendance of Aboriginal students has increased and pathways to education /employement have been

21 October at 09:30AM

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