Daring to be 'Policy Invasive': How the Concept of Governmentality Could Contribute to a better Understanding of the Ways Indigenous Interests are Managed within the Realm of Health Administration in Australia
The administration of Indigenous health at both the policy and program levels in Australia is characterised by a complex system of governance between Commonwealth and State/Territory governments. The paper will firstly summarise existing literature to outline how previous approaches to understanding the use of power within the assemblages of government may be limited. It is then proposed that the application of a Foucauldian theory of governmentality, in particular, how the notion of the problematics of government as understood through political rationalities could provide an important conceptual tool to promote a better understanding of the deployment of power in contemporary Indigenous health policy. An overview of the fundamental elements of the governmentality approach will be interwoven as part of this discussion. The concepts will then be discussed in relation to their relevance as a conceptual tool for understanding Indigenous health governance. In particular, an attempt is made to demonstrate how political rationalities can embody a certain way of thinking and acting by governments as a means of knowing and governing the health of Indigenous Australians within a neo-liberal state. Specifically, the importance of applying this form of analysis to the technologies of government, ie. the range of programs, techniques, procedures etc that allow for the realisation of government ambitions will be emphasised. The paper will then conclude with a number of observations as to how this approach could contribute to improved knowledge and understanding, for example, as to the limits and domains of political authority, how and where political rule manifests, how "authorities" emerge that purport to speak for populations, and how geo-political fields of rule become established and operationalised. Given the poor health of Indigenous Australians that seemingly remains perpetuated, it is argued that the need to provide alternative explanations of this phenomenon such the concept of governmentality is critical to any future success of Australian Governments to arrest this national trend.
Keywords: Political theory, Indigenous governance, Public administration
Mr Steve Larkin
Principal, Executive Management, The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies