Reconciliation and the Quest for Economic Sameness

Jon Altman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Deploying the lenses of economics, this chapter considers why the Australian government has proven so incapable of progressing the process of reconciliation after setting up the statutory and institutional mechanisms to do so in 1991. My argument is that in policy thinking there is a perceived logical correlation between reconciliation and the quest for economic sameness. For decades now the nation’s Indigenous policy framework has been framed as a project for ‘Closing the Gap’. Such framing makes prospects for reconciliation difficult. This is because the very logic of reconciliation as progressively codified and emptied of substantive meaning presumes the eradication of difference settler society looks to move from the elimination of the different to the elimination of difference. This elimination of difference is founded on an evolutionary moral sentiment of socioeconomic salvation discursively couched as neoliberal reason. As long as reconciliation is predicated on such a state-imposed project of economic sameness it will fail. Successful reconciliation will require a broader acceptance of the plurality of Indigenous aspirations and the diversity of Indigenous circumstances. Such national embrace of ‘post-colonial’ economic plurality that focuses on livelihood (not just statistical) improvements is a necessary first step to improved relations between Indigenous and other Australians. Optimistically, if the reconciliation process can embrace the notion of economic plurality or hybridity inclusive of ‘difference recognition’, prospects for reconciliation, whether defined as a process or as an end point, will be enhanced.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation
Subtitle of host publicationNon-Indigenous People and the Responsibility to Engage
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789811026546
ISBN (Print)9789811026539
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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