Archive for the 'IK Economy' Category


Pluralism as a policy paradigm

In social policy there are no absolutes.  Broad labels such as self-determination, mutual responsibility, etc. describe broad policies subject to an integrated and complex web of forces, powers and circumstances.  Certain labels might be ideal in theory but in practice fall short.  Some may describe in a broad sense a set of policies but in fact lack the substance for an accurate description.  An unfortunate aspect of the political market is that such circumstances lead to a postering for position rather than an articulation of policies and how they can be improved.  By its very nature politics is continually at risk of becoming an equation between different interpretations and positions rather than a collective articulation of ways forward.

An example of a convuluted term is ‘self-determination’.  The opposite is seen as ‘mainstreaming’.  Both describe the tension between the way Aboriginal identity is integrated into the broader and more dominant parts of society and the way it is protected as a distinct and seperate position.  One train of thought, put to me recently by an Aboriginal person strong in traditional culture, is that Aboriginal people exercise self-determination through retaining their identity: language, relationships, etc, and nothing else.  I am told that ‘this is self-determination’, meaning not some formal policy construct.  Contrast this with the policy label of ‘self-determination’ which was, in effect, the creation of thousands of corporate structures providing services exclusively accessed by Aboriginal people.  The two interpretations of ‘self-determination’ are quite stark. 

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The IK economy, trust, and integrating institutions designed for community safety

The 7:30 report conveyed a story (found here) about incorporating traditional methods of dispute resolution for the purpose of mediating a dispute between residents of a community and Police.  I participated in a similiar program some years back (designed for leadership/youth purposes) and was struck by its potential.  It led me to consider the importance of the IK economy and the nature of social capital.

It appears that the program reported in the story has been successful in building the stocks of trust between residents and the Police force.  More research/analysis would be needed to prove this point, but there is little doubt that this particular program was an option leading to this aim in circumstances where alternative options are limited.

More over the fold.

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Craig Emerson, Market Democrats and the IK economy

Craig Emerson delivered a speech to the Sydney Institute outlining a broad platform to further reform the Australian welfare state.  The speech presented a mainstream construct of an emerging yet well-founded philosophy: that social democracy is relevant where it can influence markets for the public good.  Emerson refers to supporters of this line of thought as Market Democrats.  

I’m a supporter of this broad philosophy.  My concern is the lack of debate in relation to the role of markets in indigenous policy.  My concern is the paucity of debate concerning the relationships between indigenous peoples, markets and social policy. 

Emerson claims that:

Governments must not imprison the disadvantaged by subjugating them to the state, robbing them of self-esteem and condemning them to a life of dependency; governments must liberate them by providing opportunity for all in a truly fair society. Let us not make the disadvantaged the experiments of social engineers yearning for a different social order but lacking the stomach to practise it in their own lives. It is this social experimentation of romanticising traditional life in the harsh outback that has caused Australia’s most vulnerable – indigenous people – to be trapped in misery.

Emerson is correct in asserting that the contemporary welfare state has ‘subjugated’ indigenous peoples to State dependance, but I am not convinced that it is the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ that has allowed welfare dependance to flourish.  In the post-Whitlam period indigenous people were entitled to welfare provision on the basis of equal rights and equal entitlements.  This formed part of an international process aimed at removing discrimination.  When the welfare state was reformed, and where mainstream welfare structures integrated notions of reciprocity and mutual obligation, indigenous-specific programs were excluded from such reforms.  I am not convinced that this exclusion was not confined to reasons of the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ argument.  For example, many conservative political forces sceptical of the ‘romanticisation’ argument supported excluding such programs as a way to stem Aboriginal migration to regional centres.   

Where Emerson is correct, and where other advocates lack focus, is the connection between the State, markets and social policy.  The benefit of adopting the Market Democrat notion to indigenous policy is to look at how to harmonise the relationship between markets and the pluralism of indigenous identity.  I refer to this as the Indigenous Knowledge economy.

More over the fold. 

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The term ‘urban Aboriginal’

ABC News reports comments by the dean of Indigenous Research and Education at CDU, Prof MaryAnn Bin-Sallik, that descriptions like ‘urban indigenous, traditional indigenous and persons of Aboriginal descent’ are insulting in the extreme. 

ABC reports:

[that Professor Bin-Sallik] says the term ‘urban indigenous’ is racist because it being based on the colour of people’s skin.  She says even Aboriginal people have started identifying with the ‘toxic labels’.  She wants all levels of Australian governments to stop using racist language, and instead describe indigenous Australians as Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.

I disagree on three grounds (over the fold).

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Designing markets and investing in human capital

Progressive think-tank Per Capita have written a memo to the newly elected Prime Minister, located here

An excerpt reads:

Your government can build the Investing Society by focusing on the two big policy themes of market design and human capital investment. Designing markets and investing in people brings together the economic and social roles of government in a new fusion.

Market design is about setting the ‘rules of the game’ to get the right outcomes – in new markets like carbon, water and broadband, and in old markets where existing provision has failed, like infrastructure and housing. With good market design, governments harness market forces by setting incentives and accounting for risk.

Human capital is Australia’s most valuable asset and you have rightly made it the centrepiece of your education revolution. In addition to building human capital, your government should focus on protecting this precious asset: damaged human capital means opportunities lost and lives destroyed. Human capital investment not only makes economic sense, it’s morally right.

A focus of my blog concerns how this broad framework is applied to indigenous policy.

The first policy direction, designing markets, involves shaping the correct set of incentives through the prism of welfare reform.  But it also involves the design of markets that value the indigenous knowledge economy.  There appears to be no strategic approach to this second issue (an issue I include in the category located here).  As a result, reform is confined to shaping the perverse incentives without adding positive incentives.   

The second policy direction, investment in human capital, involves ensuring full participation of indigenous school-aged students in a merit-based education system.  There are generations of indigenous people who are locked out of a substantial bloc of employable options.

An important point, though, is that a strategic design of the indigenous knowledge economy enables a connect between indigenous (exclusive) human capital and employable options.  In this sense indigenous (exclusive) human capital is local indigenous knowledge where there is a significant gap in human capital that would otherwise result from a merit-based education.


The utility of knowledge

The United Nations University (UNU) Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) Centre of Traditional Knowledge is an exciting step for Charles Darwin University.  (Information about the launch can be found here). 

The UNI-IAS has already initiated a number of pilot projects in areas such as climate change, water, international policy making, biological resources and marine management. 

Valuing traditional knowledge for the purpose of education is important for several reasons:

  • it creates employment opportunities that match the skills and knowledge of indigenous peoples (in a socio-economic environment where there is a significant structural deficiency between labour supply and demand);
  • it re-enforces the positive value of indigenous identity and strengthens the inter-dependance between social networks and the sharing of knowledge;
  • it leads to possible break-throughs in key areas such as the application of biological knowledge to better health outcomes and other areas such as land resource management as a response to climate change.

In considering these positive efforts, a principal failure in indigenous affairs is the lack of value of indigenous knowledge and facilitation across a range of critical policy facets: health, justice, education, et cetera. 

Continued over the fold.

Continue reading ‘The utility of knowledge’


Linking the IK economy to responsibility

In recent years there has been substantial debate regarding the roles of rights and responsibilities in indigenous related policy.  It is said that the nominal left are firm in their standing on rights whilst the nominal right stand with the need for greater responsibility. 

In one part the debate promoting responsibilities concerns the furthering of economic responsibilities: greater home ownership, replacing communal land title with private (mainstream) rental arrangements and ownership, emphasising private investment, removing the perverse use of cash welfare payments.  I support this general direction, but only if the policy architecture across a whole range of areas is adequate. 

One of these areas is employment and active engagement with the labour market.  One area of concern is the structural detachment of the labour market and Indigenous labour supply.  The IK economy assists in addressing this structural deficiency. 

An important opportunity, though, is the possibility of linking the IK economy with greater economic responsibility.  That is, where Governments provide funds on the basis of valuing indigenous knowledge as a resource, it can have greater leverage in determining the flow-on of that income to economically responsible outcomes.  Such outcomes include home ownership, asset accumulation, education investment, business investment, et cetera. 

July 2018
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