Articles by: Jon Altman

Author Biography:

Jon Altman has a background in economics and anthropology and is an emeritus professor at the Australian National University. He works on practical issues around environmental, economic and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Australia and beyond with a number of not-for-profits. He has been an active participant in the Arena project for 20 years.

The deadly virus delivers accidental benefit to remote Indigenous Australia

The expansion of welfare payments in response to the coronavirus crisis will have a massive economic impact on remote indigenous Australia, effectively doubling the overall incomes of many communities.

Informit: After the loss, what country are we?

The 18 May election has ended any sense in which Australia can feel apart from the political stresses and upheavals that over the past decade have come to characterise much of the West. Certainly what has been called the revolt against the elites has now been confirmed here. Of course it is a particular kind of leadership that is being rejected, one associated with globalisation, immigration, education and inner-city life-differentiated from, and a parallel universe…

Modern Slavery in Remote Australia?, by Jon Altman

The government's welfare reforms for Indigenous Australians look like slavery

Informit: Modern slavery in remote Australia?

The Government's welfare reforms for Indigenous Australians look like slavery. On 19 September 2017 in New York, where I happened to be residing temporarily, the International Labour Organization (ILO) released new research developed jointly with the Walk Free Foundation and published in Global Estimates of Modern Slavery. The research reveals that there are an estimated 40 million victims of modern slavery in 2016, with about 25 million entrapped in situations of forced labour. There are…

Informit: The destruction of homelander life-ways

In Arena Magazine No. 82, just on eleven years ago, I wrote about the denigration of Aboriginal homelands in very remote Australia, first by Amanda Vanstone as minister for Indigenous affairs and then by the likes of Gary Johns, then president of the now defunct Bennelong Society, and The Australian's news media in their conservative editorialising. I challenged these negative depictions of homeland living as being both emotive and ideological. Deep down, I doubted that…

Trump: Logician to Rhetorician, by Jon Altman

Jon Altman

9 Feb 2017

Trump's message is to make America great again. The means to do this, according to him, is to revisit the twentieth-century industrial capitalism that made America ‘great’ before. It is the legacy of this American Dream of bloated materialism and waste that is now choking the planet.

Auditing Indigenous Poverty

Jon Altman

30 Jun 2016

A major challenge all political parties face is that Indigenous poverty is deeply embedded and structural and will take a long time, innovative policy and major investments to address. The diversity of Indigenous circumstances means that a diversity of approaches will be required, but the major parties are committed to mainstreaming or normalisation options. It is only the Greens that are serious about the recognition of difference and the need for approaches that emphasise social…

Informit: Indigenous policy ‘Reform’

Reviving the settler-colonial project in remote Indigenous Australia. It is becoming increasingly common for the Australian governments to announce unpopular policy reform late on a Friday or early on a Saturday with a judicious 'exclusive' pre-release to The Australian newspaper. And so it was on 6 December 2014 when proposals to radically reform the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) from 1 July 2015 were announced: 'Remote dole rules [to be] twice as tough' screamed…

Informit: ‘Developing the Aborigines’

On 20 October with muted fanfare, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) launched the much-anticipated Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2011-2018 (IEDS). The IEDS has been four years in the making and was now the responsibility of a triumvirate of Ministers including Mark Arbib, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. Fittingly perhaps, given its content, the IEDS…

Informit: Arnhem land Buffalo

In May 2014 I was flying low in a helicopter over the Tomkinson River floodplains in western Arnhem Land, locally known by the regional name Bulkay. While I had visited Bulkay on many occasions, this was my first chopper flyover since 2009. This area is renowned as a site for large gatherings of Aboriginal people owing to its seasonal resource abundance. I saw herds of wild buffalo visible from the air in greater numbers than…

Informit: Neoliberal assimilation

Homo economicus sits at the centre of the Forrest Review of Aboriginal jobs and training. As an academic and practitioner who has undertaken research on Indigenous policy and development for nearly forty years and chaired policy reviews for governments, I realise that the task is challenging, especially in the cluttered and highly politicised field that is Indigenous policy today. But I was sceptical from the outset that the Forrest Review would deliver, owing to a…

Informit: Hope-less futures?