Shannyn Palmer is a historian and writer based in Canberra. Between 2011 and 2015 she lived in Central Australia, carrying out research and oral-history work with Anangu who had lived and worked on Angas Downs pastoral station over a period of fifty years across the middle of the twentieth century. This work has led to her interest in the spatial dimensions of settler-colonial capitalism in Australia, especially its apparent unsuitability in the north of the continent.
Do we really want to continue replicating southern models of settler-colonial capitalism when the catastrophic environmental consequences of that logic, especially extractivism, are impressing themselves on us daily?
I begin with this quote from Ernestine Hill because her description of the Northern Territory as 'problem child of empire' evocatively captures the paradoxical nature of the 'north' in the settler-Australian imagination - from the moment British settlement pushed further inland and north in the mid-nineteenth century, the north of the continent, the Northern Territory in particular, has simultaneously been construed as both a 'promised land' and a 'white elephant'.