Is community development equity or justice?

Bindi Bennett, Sue Green

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


THIS CHAPTER CONSIDERS community development within a framework of rights and justice. It also discusses what development approaches do and do not work for Aboriginal communities. It is frequently argued that community development approaches are the best method for working with Aboriginal people and communities. However, it is not often considered how community development is carried out, under whose agenda and what impact it will actually have upon Aboriginal people and communities. This chapter examines how community development is often used to fix the ‘Aboriginal problem’. It considers the underlying assumptions of community development - that it is about equity and the need to shift the focus onto one of rights and justice. The chapter also looks at many of the challenges and possibilities that arise out of basing community development within the framework of rights and justice and what these might look like for community development practices with Aboriginal people and communities. We explore what is considered good practice in community development with Aboriginal people and also discuss approaches that work. The chapter finishes with a conversation about the possible ways forward for Aboriginal community development. ‘Fixing the problem’ Since the early days of colonisation in Australia there has been a focus on ‘fixing the Aboriginal problem’. This has been illustrated by the various governmental inquiries, policies and programs concerned with the issue of Aboriginal disadvantage. Both the British Parliament and New South Wales Legislative Council in colonial times appointed committees to examine the conditions of Aboriginal people (Green 2014). All of the inquiries found that Aboriginal people were experiencing social disadvantage and that this disadvantage could only be addressed through the assimilation of Aboriginal people into the general society. This assimilation meant that Aboriginal people were to move (forcibly if necessary) away from their own societal structures and ways of living into the ways of the colonisers. Governor Macquarie offered Aboriginal people assistance with moving and living within the British settlement (Green 2014, pp. 140-3). This was not a gentle offer of assistance as the alterative was that Aboriginal people who did not take up the offer would be outside of the protection of British law and could be dealt with by the settlers in whatever manner they saw fit (Green 2014, pp. 140-3).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMia Mia Aboriginal Community Development: Fostering Cultural Security
EditorsCheryl Kickett-Tucker, Dawn Bessarab, Juli Coffin, Michael Wright
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781107741768
ISBN (Print)9781107414471
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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