Bawinanga: the life, and near death, of a major Aboriginal organisation

Image of humpys and 4WDs in the bush.

Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 07 July 2015


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Jon Altman


Emma Larking
+61 2 6125 1513

This work-in-progress research was originally undertaken for a workshop ‘Corruption, inter-culturality and moral reasoning: A view from the domestic moral economy’ held in Edinburgh, Scotland last year. The case study being examined is the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation established in Maningrida in 1979 coincidentally when Jon started undertaking research there. Bawinanga was originally an outstation resource agency that grew to be probably the largest Indigenous regional development corporation in remote Australia. Much of Bawinanga’s success was linked to its innovative and entrepreneurial use of significant resources delivered under the federal government’s Community Development Employment Projects scheme (CDEP) from 1989.

In October 2012, after 33 years of growth and success, Bawinanga went into special administration because it was insolvent. This occurred despite heightened external scrutiny of the corporation possible under Intervention laws from 2007; and despite tightening of the regulatory framework, the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act, 2006.

In this seminar Jon will deploy several lenses and logics to seek possible explanations for the rapid fall from grace of Bawinanga—was it neoliberal over-reach, corruption, contested moral reasoning or a combination of all three? And will Bawinanga now recover from its ‘near death’ experience?

Jon Altman has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology. From 1990–2010 he was Foundation Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) when it was a university centre and then a research professor there till 2015. Since 2001 he has also been an adjunct Professorial Fellow at the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods at Charles Darwin University in Darwin. He is currently Emeritus Professor here at RegNet.

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