Engagement and Innovation in Criminal Justice: Case Studies of Relations between Indigenous Groups and Government Agencies
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This research aims to draw attention to the way government and Indigenous groups engage in community settings and explores the potential of this sphere of political activity as a source of innovation and reform. Indigenous people have many good ideas about managing crime and justice in their communities, but what happens to those ideas when they are presented to an agency of the criminal justice system? To investigate the fate of Indigenous ideas and how they might be progressed through western bureaucracies, I conducted four case studies – two in New Zealand and two in the Australian state of Queensland – that represent examples of what occurs when government and Indigenous groups come together to develop a local crime and justice project. This thesis presents an empirical record of the events in each case, a comparative analysis of what occurred and my hypothesis of what might be likely to occur in other similar cases. I found that Indigenous leaders responded to government projects by challenging the government’s intentions, venting their anger, hijacking the agenda and contesting the projects’ assumptions. My analysis of the policy background to the cases shows that although governments currently favour community ‘capacity building’ strategies, these policies mistakenly assume that Indigenous communities are capacity deficient. Indigenous leaders tend to interpret policies that encourage devolved decision-making arrangements as government support for self-determination, and ‘whole of government’ strategies continue to disappoint because the public sector is unable to coordinate its resources. Instead, successful local projects often depend on the accidental convergence of a good idea, a committed and enthusiastic leadership, some degree of political will and sufficient resources. To maximise these opportunities for reform, bureaucrats need to feel comfortable in the ‘community space’, to learn to operate within the Indigenous domain and be willing to put Indigenous ideas into practice. The thesis concludes that Indigenous communities are highly capable of developing reform projects and effective forms of governance on Indigenous terms, but government actors are often unsure of how to utilise the expertise of Indigenous people. Effective Indigenous leaders are experts in the history, conditions and aspirations of their communities. They are also experts in the practice of consensus decision-making, can mobilise community support for a good idea and have learned to negotiate with unresponsive and uncoordinated government agencies. When government and Indigenous groups are willing to engage, and each acknowledges the potential contribution of the other, then there is potential for a new way forward in the relationship between government agencies and Indigenous people.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Item Access Status
indigenous peoples' sovereignty