Compulsory Income Management, Indigenous Peoples and Structural Violence – Implications for Citizenship and Autonomy

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This article critically analyses the role of law in the process of structural violence. It considers racial discrimination against Indigenous peoples in the context of compulsory income management. Australia has a long history of racial discrimination towards Indigenous peoples that includes placing restrictions on their spending patterns. Historical investigation reveals that past colonial laws created impoverished conditions for many Aboriginal peoples and a paternalistic style of governance resulted in further reinforcement of negative colonial stereotypes. The enactment of income management laws was also intricately connected to economic rationalism and the creation of industries of micromanagement on the basis of race. These industries were instrumental in transferring the wealth that rightfully belonged to Indigenous peoples to government treasuries. This article critiques the racist assumptions underpinning laws of this type, and highlights the way that these sorts of laws reproduce structural violence. The article also explores the contemporary resurgence of compulsory income management, which includes restrictions on spending patterns, and the impact that these laws and policies have upon Indigenous welfare recipients living in the Northern Territory. It contends that these restrictions have a deleterious impact upon the autonomy and citizenship rights of those affected by them, despite the fact that the government has ostensibly enacted income management laws to improve the well-being of welfare recipients. The restrictions imposed through compulsory income management radically affect the autonomy of welfare recipients subject to it and renders them more akin to subjects of the state rather than full rights-bearing citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-118
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Indigenous Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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