Paper: IK, Policy and Economy

Last year I wrote a paper for a policy ideas competition open to young people.  Criteria was based on originality of idea and practical application, limited to 1000 words.  An op-ed suggesting a tax on property ownership won. 

My entry, Indigenous Knowledge, Policy and Economy is over the fold.

If individual freedom is determined by the scope of opportunity and choice, then the plight confronted by our first Australians will continue for years to come.  For those directly concerned with this predicament, the prevailing analysis of progressive politics should cause similar indignation. 

What appears to be missing is the contest of ideas. 

Robust and open exchange of indigenous issues is often undermined by the opposing ideologies of political correctness versus concealed racism.  Too many of our progressive leaders assume that the advancement of indigenous interests is the protection of a singular inward-looking platform, rather than the innovation of ideas that open exchange promotes. 

One idea for progressive politics is the development of the indigenous knowledge economy. 

In mainstream economic structures the knowledge economy represents the resource value of knowledge and the means of its distribution.  While indigenous knowledge is currently valued in various economic activity, the aim is to develop a considered and strategic political direction.  

In this context, indigenous knowledge includes not only traditional knowledge, but the ability to form an interface or bridge to indigenous societies.  It includes the sharing of knowledge external to a group and the influence of knowledge and identity within groups. 

Here are three practical examples. 

The first involves exploring the junior-partner approach to capacity development.  For example, in many communities people employed in prominent positions ‘come and go like the clouds’.  The junior-partner approach involves employing local respected persons in various fields based on their relevant knowledge and connection to the community.  This group would be supported part-time by qualified persons orbiting between communities, empowered to ensure accountability, compliance and professional standards are met, and promoting effective models, evaluations and outcomes.  Through the junior-partner approach, the role of government would better reflect principles of capacity development. 

Another example is the provision of education.  Recently, the prestigious Melbourne school Trinity Grammar introduced indigenous studies as a compulsory part of its curriculum.  By using advances in communication technology, mechanisms could be established to enable indigenous people in regional and remote locations the opportunity to teach language, kin-ship structures and other basic aspects of indigenous knowledge.  The role of government would be to establish these mechanisms in a way that links private and public schooling support, and to ensure informed consent from those with the traditional authority to utilise this knowledge. 

The third example involves stimulating private enterprise and partnerships.  This approach would support a local indigenous initiative to grow or hunt indigenous food products to be sold to food suppliers and multi-national food chains, labelled and marketed as products based on indigenous knowledge.  The role of government would be to provide taxation or other incentives for the corporate sector to source these products, and to ensure partnerships are developed where indigenous-led enterprises can best utilise and focus on indigenous knowledge and initiative. 

These are just three practical examples across a range of knowledge possibilities. 

In modern politics, financing reform in policy areas that are outside the core interests of substantial voter concern can be more effective when there is scope for innovation, without lifting taxes.  The potential of the indigenous knowledge economy is to enhance access to a variety of private sector markets, and to leverage investment from the growing philanthropic and charitable sector.  Of the near $3 billion currently spent by the Australian government in indigenous affairs, realigning at least half of this in clearly defined stages is not an impossible task.  State and Territory governments would also need to partner. 

The main benefit of developing the indigenous knowledge economy is the prospect of drastically reducing unemployment.  High levels of unemployment contribute to the conditions that create substance abuse epidemics.  These conditions include the prevalence of boredom, and the dismantling of social reciprocity which envelops initiative, effort and contribution. 

The experience of the American First Nations indicates that current Australian welfare reform will result in positive outcomes for the bulk of mainstream Australia, but worsening consequences for the distinct circumstances of indigenous people.  The two main reasons for this are the lack of employment structures that match indigenous human capital and the lack of positive incentives to engage labour markets.  A strong indigenous knowledge economy can help overcome both barriers to form an essential cog in effective welfare reform.   

As indigenous people own the problems, the potential of the indigenous knowledge economy is to give agency to also owning the solutions.  Applying specifically tailored market structures can strengthen the interface to indigenous societies. 

The fact is governments, non-indigenous and indigenous people can possess all the positive intentions in the world, but if they cannot actively influence the restoration of social norms – the explicit and implicit rules governing society – then their efforts are futile, often counter-productive. 

It is this function, of restoring social norms, which gives expression to the importance of rebuilding social capital amongst indigenous people.  By empowering the positive influence of identity, a strong indigenous knowledge economy can strengthen the stocks of trust shared by close social networks.   

Social capital also extends to the path of reconciliation. 

A further suggestion for reform involves emphasising social capital principles as a measure to replace policies based on affirmative action, or positive discrimination.  For example, indigenous knowledge as essential criteria for employment can replace the need for employment positions ‘designated’ to indigenous people, or even positions that ‘encourage’ indigenous applicants.  Emphasising social capital can lead to re-designing the way opportunities and benefits exclusive to indigenous people are delivered.   

Progressive politics would find increased relevance in exploring and debating these possibilities.  The idea of developing the indigenous knowledge economy is about forging a new policy and political paradigm.  The prevailing progressive analysis of a treaty, an apology and modest increases in health expenditure are positive aptitudes, but do not project the change required for political relevance and austerity. 

Progressive politics can benefit by returning to its reformist tradition, and this time it needs to include indigenous people as facilitators rather than participants.  


0 Responses to “Paper: IK, Policy and Economy”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

September 2007
« Aug   Oct »

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Flickr Photos

Blog Stats

  • 8,319 hits

%d bloggers like this: