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 Native Title Act supports mineral extraction and heritage destruction

As spatial coverage has expanded—unexpectedly, following socially just judicial decisions and evolving jurisprudence—governmental and corporate attempts to empty native title and land rights laws of content have rapidly escalated.

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: From CDEP to CEEDS?

The Australian government is seeking to fundamentally reform CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects) throughout remote Indigenous Australia as a part of the NT Intervention. CDEP, established in 1977, is a mutual obligation workfare program that was a vehicle for engaging Aboriginal people in a range of community development, service delivery and enterprise development projects, funded from block grants roughly equivalent to unemployment benefit entitlements.

Informit: W(h)ither remote Indigenous economic development?

As 2011 unfolded, some reflexive summer copy appeared in 'The Australian' on disappointingly slow progress in Indigenous development in remote Australia. For several years now 'The Australian' has taken a lead role in advocating for intervention, championing the decisive actions taken in 2007 in the Northern Territory under the policy umbrella of a 'national emergency', and strongly editorialising and commentating on the need for forms of individual responsibility, private home ownership, education, employment and business…