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

Mr Steve Larkin
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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
Stream: Political Science, Politics, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity, First Nations and Indigenous Peoples
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Mr Steve Larkin

Principal, Executive Management, The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Steve is a Kungarkany man from Darwin in the Northern Territory. Steve has spent over 17 years working in urban, rural and remote Aboriginal communities in health and community development programs throughout the NT whilst working with the NT Govt. Steve moved to Canberra in 1995 to commence employment with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) as their National Aboriginal Health Adviser before moving to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) in 1997 to take up the position of the inaugural Chief Executive Officer. In 1999, Steve joined the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care as an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) where he managed the Social Health (including the Bringing The Home program), Substance Misuse, Men's and Prison's health, and Research and Data programs. This was followed by a short stint with the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business where he managed the national Indigenous Employment Program. Steve moved to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies as Deputy Principal. In 2002, Steve was offered an Adjunct Associate Professorship in Indigenous Health by James Cook University, and continues to maintain both an ongoing personal and professional interest/involvement in this area. Steve was recently appointed Principal of the Institute for a five year term commencing June 2004.

Ref: H05P0782