Macquarie University
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Racial warfare and the Northern Territory Intervention: security, colonial law and indigenous sovereignty

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posted on 2022-03-28, 16:15 authored by Jillian Kramer
On the 21st of June 2007, Prime Minister John Howard launched a war-like incursion, the so-called Northern Territory Intervention, into seventy-three Aboriginal communities across Northern and Central Australia. This Intervention raises critical questions about race, colonial law and Indigenous sovereignty. In critically examining the Intervention, this thesis is oriented by two key research questions: How does the Intervention reproduce racial warfare? How does whiteness work to reassert, legitimate and secure settler-colonial possession of unceded Indigenous sovereignty over country? Drawing on settler-colonial, critical race and whiteness, and critical legal theories, I argue that the Intervention cannot be conceptualised as 'exceptional' or 'extraordinary.' Rather, it demonstrates the ways in which the legal fiction of terra nullius continues to operate in the context of the contemporary settler-colonial state. I thus situate the Intervention within a genealogy of colonial violence that includes the Hindmarsh and Wik cases of the 1990s. Both these landmark cases, I argue, expose how white law is, despite the Mabo Native Title Act (1993), still foundationally underpinned by terra nullius. In the latter part of my thesis, I proceed to examine how the Intervention also exposes transnational regimes of power that connect Australian settler-colonialism to larger imperial formations. In order to evidence this argument, I examine how Australia's anti-terror laws, amended at the time of the Intervention, and the violent imposition of neoliberal values into Aboriginal communities effectively functioned to position targeted Aboriginal subjects within biopolitical networks that connect them to such seemingly remote sites as Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands. In pursuing the foundational role of race, specifically, whiteness, within the political and juridical infrastructure of the settler-colonial state, I focus on how it scripts targeted Aboriginal subjects and spaces as 'threats' that can be lawfully eliminated in the name of the white state's 'security.' The securitisation of the state, through biopolitical regimes of governmentality, works, I conclude, to ensure the self-preservation and reproduction of the settler-colonial order.


Table of Contents

Part One. (Re)Instantiating White Sovereignty. Chapter One. Future directions' terra nullius and the possessive logic of patriarchal white sovereignty Chapter Two. Contextualising the Intervention : Howard, Hindmarsh and Wik -- Part Two. Legitimating white sovereignty. Chapter Three. 'Rounded up and taken' : self-preserving force and the Intervention Chapter Four. Legitimating fictions : the rule of law and war on terror -- Part Three. Securing sovereignty. Chapter Five. Neoliberal assimilation, 'real jobs' and the 'real economy' Chapter Six. Protest house : indigenous resistance and sovereign (im)possibilities -- Epilogue. Stronger futures?


Theoretical thesis. All chapters of this thesis have been removed due to copyright reasons. Bibliography: pages 206-243

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Joseph Pugliese

Additional Supervisor 1

Anthony Lambert


Copyright Jillian Kramer 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




Northern Territory


1 online resource (viii, 243 pages) illustrations (some colour)

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