Equity, discrimination and remote policy: Investigating the centralization of remote service delivery in the Northern Territory

Francis Markham*, Bruce Doran

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Two hypotheses have been advanced to explain the spatial patterning of service accessibility. The bureaucratic hypothesis holds that spatial inequalities are unpatterned and result from the application of decisions rules, while the competing political hypothesis suggests that politically-motivated decision making results in discriminatory outcomes. We use the example of the centralization of service provision in remote Indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory to show that these hypotheses may in fact be complementary. In recent years, government rhetoric about Australia's remote Indigenous communities has moved to focus on economic viability instead of social justice. One policy realization of this rhetoric has been the designation of 'growth towns' and 'priority communities' to act as service hubs for surrounding communities. The introduction of such hubs was examined and substantial inequality in access to service hubs was found. Inequality and overall system efficiency could be reduced with by optimizing the selection of hubs but the imposition of any hub-and-spoke mode in the study area was associated with racially-patterned patterned inequality of access. We conclude that when policy contexts are politically motivated, the application of racially-blind decision rules may result in racially-discriminatory spatial inequalities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-115
    Number of pages11
    JournalApplied Geography
    Volume58
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

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