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The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom (2012 Boyer Lectures) by Marcia Langton

Reviewed by
July–August 2013, no. 353
More than History's Victims

The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom (2012 Boyer Lectures)

by Marcia Langton

ABC Books, $16.99 pb, 175 pp, 9780733331633

The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom (2012 Boyer Lectures) by Marcia Langton

Reviewed by
July–August 2013, no. 353

The Aborigines of Australia are among the more land-rich of colonised peoples. More than one fifth of Australia is under Aboriginal ownership, and a perpetual fund – established by Labor and fattened by Coalition and Labor governments – will add to this estate. To examine this recent change in Australian real estate as a ‘quiet revolution’ was a good choice of theme by Marcia Langton.

More than History's Victims

The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom (2012 Boyer Lectures)

by Marcia Langton

ABC Books, $16.99 pb, 175 pp, 9780733331633

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Comments (4)

  • The Age article to which Rachel O’Reilly directs our attention predicted that in the published book of the Boyer Lectures Professor Langton would disclose where she gets research funds from. The Age was right: the book directs our attention to the page on her website where this disclosure can be read. That Professor Langton’s sources of research funds include the mining industry had already been widely aired by the time of her book’s appearance. Why repeat, in my review, the information that Professor Langton’s research is partly financed by mining companies?

    A premise of my review is that Professor Langton is a strong intelligent person writing in good faith. Evaluating what she says about the relationships between mining companies and Aboriginal communities is more important than speculating about why she says it. I did not evaluate her contentious proposal that mining companies be given tax breaks for funding community infrastructure. Here’s what I think. I am ambivalent about ‘corporate social responsibility’. On the one hand, I want Aboriginal communities (and Universities) to be less reliant on government funding: diversifying their funding sources creates room for manoeuvre. On the other hand, to privatise the responsibility for funding public goods (such as Aboriginal community infrastructure and Higher Education) is a step away from the social democratic formula of government that I believe is best. Equity is a responsibility of states and only a discretionary choice of philanthropy. I want to see Professor Langton’s proposal debated, not dismissed because of its provenance. Debate about the corporate funding of Universities must also continue, to canvass its risks and opportunities.

    Tim Rowse
    Posted by Tim Rowse
    29 August 2013
  • To be clear, I consider the review otherwise excellent, and Langton, who I have been reading since a teenager, an extremely important voice and formidable public intellectual labourer. My frustration is specifically (and only) that there is not some grappling acknowledgment of the known relationship between the lectures' arguments, for example, for reducing mining company taxes (which I agree is an extremely productive provocation of a serious dialogue about the pernicious and historically ordinary non-funding of base public infrastructure and services for indigenous communities), and the problem that such research is built, and in Australia at this moment still needs to be built, on strong research support from the companies themselves in order to access the argument. What I take issue with is merely this - how an intellectual 'social licence to operate' can extend into a review by omission. As far as I understand, that acknowledgement of company support is written into the published book of the lecture. More broadly I think we need to start having this conversation in the arts about the complex relationship between non-renewables, political economic histories/suppositions, social licences and cultural futures. Too often these issues are distanciated as indigenous and regional community issues; 'harder there' than in the cosmopolitan metropoles, where merely more abstracted. I was far too quick on the comment button and perfunctory in dealing with an otherwise rich and critically attentive review of a valuable polemic, so wanted to clarify my mostly phatic desire for updated contextual reading. I'm aware that Paul Cleary for example has unpacked some of Langton's specific community cases in his book, Minefield, which also engages in a dialogue with some of her solutions posed. I would highly recommend that for anyone interested in a larger surveying of the impact of mining upon legal, political and regulatory due process across multiple specific mining locales, the writing of which is attentive to real conditions and longterm impacts on the ground - not just working conditions. Thanks.
    Posted by Rachel O
    23 August 2013
  • How could this review be published in August 2013 and not mention the now widely known political economic complicities of the lectures' writing? I think it would be responsible to revisit the review's/ABR's engagement with this series, in light of this insidious power of mining in constructing supposedly indigenous futures in general, and within Langton's case-making. At the very least the review text needs an editorial update/rewriting in light of. http://www.theage.com.au/national/langton-failed-to-disclose-mining-company-funding-20130301-2fbtx.html
    Posted by Rachel O
    21 August 2013
  • Reading this article, I get the impression that Marcia Langton enjoins Aborigines to be entrepreneurs and make their millions by selling each other at competitive prices down the river. It's a wonderful thing to avoid victimhood and exercise one's inalienable right to join the enemy!
    Posted by Robert Verdon
    21 July 2013