16th Annual Wheelwright Lecture, ‘Not Going Away: First People and the Australian Economy’

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The 16th Annual E.L. ‘Ted’ Wheelwright Memorial Lecture

The annual E.L. ‘Ted’ Wheelwright Memorial Lecture is held to commemorate the pioneering role that Ted Wheelwright played in developing studies in Political Economy in Australia.

Not Going Away: First People and the Australian Economy

Speaker: Professor Heidi Norman

Over the last 50 years there has commenced a land titling revolution. Indigenous peoples have recognised land interests over more than half the continent, nearly four million square kilometres, with more under claim. Estimates suggests that Indigenous peoples hold exclusive possession native title and fee simple to around 26% of Australia’s landmass. When non-exclusive native title is included, that number rises to 54% of the country covering National parks, conservation areas, and vast expanses of the continent.

The Aboriginal land estate is critical in the response to climate change and the energy transition currently underway will transform land-use patterns across many parts of regional Australia. While the risk of exclusion for Indigenous peoples is significant, opportunities that will come with meaningful participation are enormous.

My research shows that Indigenous land holders want to address climate change in ways that support their ambitions to generate prosperity and rebuild nations and economies that align with Indigenous values. Here I seek to make room for a better understanding of careful and considered adaptation to local economic conditions that produce new opportunities for survival. Rather than the inevitable dissolution of traditional non-capitalist social relations, or assimilated but ethnically diverse workers, welfare dependency or of elimination, there is richness in considering the continuities and discontinuities with pre-colonial Aboriginal society and post coloniality as Aboriginal worlds are re-established in new form.

Professor Heidi Norman is a leading Australian researcher in the field of Aboriginal political history. Her research sits in the field of history and draws on the cognate disciplines of anthropology, political-economy, cultural studies and political theory. She is a descendent of the Gomeroi people from Northwestern NSW.

Her research has included: a history of the NSW Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout; the social and economic impact of mining on Gomeroi lands; study of economic change over time and relationship to Aboriginal lives in cities. In 2015 she published a political history of Aboriginal land rights in NSW titled ‘What Do We Want?’ and in 2019 published a study of media coverage of Aboriginal political aspirations. Her recent work has focused on the social, economic, and cultural benefits of Aboriginal land repossession in NSW.

About the Wheelwright Lecture:

Ted Wheelwright (1921-2007) was one of the great contributors to Australian political economy. He was a strong critic of orthodox economics, the concentration of corporate power and the failure of Australian economic policy to confront the challenges facing the nation in an increasingly globalised context. He was involved in the struggle to develop political economy courses at the University of Sydney. He supported the establishment of the Journal of Australian Political Economy (JAPE) and published an article in its very first issue in 1977.

Established in 2008, previous distinguished lecturers include Jessica Whyte (2022), Kim Stanley Robinson (2021), Adam Tooze, Jayati Ghosh, Susan Ferguson (2020), Susanne Soederberg (2019), Alfredo Saad-Filho (2018), Katherine Gibson (2017), David Ruccio (2016), Erik Olin Wright (2015), Leo Panitch (2014), Susan George (2013), Diane Elson (2012), Sheila Dow (2011), Fred Block (2010), Jim Stanford (2009) and Walden Bello (2008).

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Organiser Contact
Janet Bunn
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