Authors: Dr Felecia Watkin Lui
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. The two groups have a shared history dating back to thousands of years of cultural exchange, trade and travel between the islands of the Torres Strait and mainland Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also share a similar colonial history marked by oppression, displacement and forced removal from their ancestral homelands. Recently however, the extent of ‘shared histories’ between the two groups has taken a distinctive turn as government policy seeks to redefine the boundaries of who constitutes an Indigenous Australian. This redefinition of Indigenous Australia is evident in government policy relating to Torres Strait Islanders and, more specifically, Torres Strait Islanders who live outside the Torres Strait. This paper explores the contentious political and social landscape that pertains to Indigenous Australians and, in particular, the role government policy plays in redefining and engineering the boundaries of inclusion of certain cultural groups, most notably Torres Strait Islanders. The author argues that Indigenous social policy (in the Australian context) is characterised by a complex and often contradictory interplay of social and cultural processes that have been constructed within the politics of identity, representation and ‘people making’.
Keywords: Indigenous governance; Torres Strait Islanders; Aboriginal Australians; identity