The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
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Over the past three years, Indigenous policy in Australia has taken an interventionist turn. The work of Noel Pearson (see Pearson 2000), a prominent Indigenous intellectual from Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, has provided much of the impetus for this push. As a result, the chronic social problems of the Peninsula's Aboriginal communities have become a focus of state and federal government action, driven by the recommendations of the 2001 Cape York Justice Study (Fitzgerald 2001), commissioned by the Queensland government and developed in partnership with regional Aboriginal organisations. Pearson, along with other commentators, politicians and bureaucrats, has asserted that the policies of self-determination of the past three decades have failed Indigenous people and have contributed to the chronic social problems faced by many Indigenous Australians. This paper examines the current push for intervention in the context of Aboriginal pastoral enterprises in central Cape York Peninsula. In particular, the paper considers the failure of Indigenous policy discourse to engage with the complex interrelationship between the state and the Aboriginal people of the region. It also indicates how the current 'turn' in Indigenous affairs may reproduce the entrenchment of the state in Aboriginal life- worlds such that Aboriginal people are neither truly autonomous in their relationship to wider Australian society, nor successfully refashioned as participants in the wider economy.