GRIFFITH REVIEW IS not, according to its ‘Writers’ Guidelines’, an ‘academic journal’. This leads me to pause and consider how I can establish what I want to be the starting point for this essay, which is that Australia cannot ‘make peace and firmer ground for laws, policies and outcomes that improve Indigenous and non-Indigenous life’ unless it accepts the need for Indigenous peoples to exercise a high degree of autonomy and govern their own affairs.
As an academic, my normal approach would be to provide numerous citations to the growing body of long-term economic research from the United States, Canada and Australia that provides definitive evidence for the link between political autonomy and Indigenous economic development. I would cite an equally impressive body of evidence from these countries and from New Zealand which demonstrates that health, education, housing and other public services are much more effective in ‘improving Indigenous life’ when they are designed and delivered by Indigenous people themselves. Finally, to complete the trifecta, I would refer to the large body of evidence which shows that unilateral policy interventions by non-Indigenous governments rarely improve Indigenous lives, and that where they do, the impact is short-term, and is followed by debilitating effects on Indigenous capacity and confidence.
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