05
Sep
07

An introduction to social capital and Indigenous policy

I’m a firm believer in the capacity of social capital to influence positive change, particularly in relation to Indigenous affairs (for an introduction to the general subject and its application in ethnically diverse populations see Dr Andrew Leigh’s post, here).

A number of important studies of social capital are used in the context of the immigration debate. 

In terms of bridging social capital (across ethnic boundaries), the Indigenous context provides two further considerations: (1) Indigenous Australian’s aren’t immigrating, either from this country or to this country, and often reside over long periods in the land that they are associated with; and (2) the character of acculturation is shaped by history and is unevenly spread.

Furthermore, the scope of Indigenous participation is defined by one end characterised by Indigenous people who retain a strong traditional identity, and the opposite end characterised by Indigenous people who retain only remnants, if not then no traditional identity, and every Indigenous person in between.  Social capital is relevant to both ends of this spectrum because it is concerned with identity, self-perception, family and social relationships and social norms. 

Interestingly, exploring the concept of social capital may open up new thoughtlines in relation to Indigenous policy.

In the coming years I hope to make a contribution to this blog in relation to the concept of social capital and its application in the Indigenous context.  My contributions won’t be in the form of formal research, but observations from a person interested in linking the concept to Indigenous policy (and politics). 

For now, some questions to consider:

If social capital is interpreted in several different ways, how do these interpretations apply? 

What political (and policy) paths can be laid to strengthen bridging social capital, and do these find synthesis in the reconciliation movement?

How does Indigenous policy influence social capital, and vice-versa?

Does the measure of social capital relate to the concept of social norms, or authority?

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3 Responses to “An introduction to social capital and Indigenous policy”


  1. 5 September 2007 at 12:07 pm

    John, thanks for the link. I did a brief rundown of the social capital literature in 2005, and the one thing that stood out was an absence of empirical studies looking at Indigenous communities. I’d dearly love to know whether SK (however it’s appropriate to measure it) has gone up or down over time in Indigenous Australia, but there’s nothing out there that I can find on the issue. By contrast, there are scads of papers on other areas, like SK & rural Oz, or conceptualising SK, or SK & health.

    (PS. There’s some CAEPR work showing that Indigenous people are more internally mobile than non-Indigenous Australians.)

  2. 2 Heather
    20 February 2008 at 7:06 am

    Would you be interested in a paper that discusses the concept of social capital and its application in the Indigenous context?

  3. 3 John Rawnsley
    8 April 2008 at 2:59 am

    Hi Heather, couldn’t link to any of your posts/sources. Yes, I’d be interested in a paper. regards,


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