Racial warfare and the Northern Territory Intervention: security, colonial law and indigenous sovereignty
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:15 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.