Jon Altman

Professor Emeritus
Governing Energy Transitions (GET) Lab


BA, University of Auckland, MA (Hons), University of Auckland; PhD (Anthropology), Australian National University

Contact details
Building: Coombs Extension, #8
Image: Emeritus Professor Jon Altman (RegNet)

Professor Jon Altman has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology. From 1983–90 he was a postdoctoral fellow, research fellow and senior research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change in the HC Coombs Building. 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. From 2016–19 Professor Altman was a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University in Melbourne where he currently resides.

In 2003, he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He held an ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship between 2008 and 2013 focusing his research efforts on the project ‘Hybrid Economic Futures for Remote Indigenous Australia’. In October 2012, Professor Altman was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2017 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to tertiary education as a researcher and administrator, and to the social sciences and Indigenous economic policy.

In 1979 and 1980 he undertook fieldwork for his doctorate in the Maningrida region, central Arnhem Land. Since then Professor Altman has maintained vibrant and diverse research relations with people in this region that he has visited on over 50 occasions. He has also undertaken field research in north Queensland, the Torres Strait, the Kimberleys and Central Australia.

From 2007–2012 he led the major project ‘People on Country, Healthy Landscapes, and Indigenous Economic Futures’ funded by the Sidney Myer Trust.

Professor Altman maintains strong research linkages, especially with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (where he has been a member since 1978) and the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. He also regularly collaborates with Aboriginal land councils in the Northern Territory, the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation in Maningrida, and the Laynhapuy Homelands Association in Yirrkala. He is currently a director and trustee of the Karrkad-Kanjdji Trust established in 2009; the chair and a director of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies in North Melbourne; a foundation director of Original Power; a director of the Arena Foundation; a director of Uncle Jimmy Thumbs Up; and is the Chair of the Research Committee of the Australia Institute. He also works as an associate editor (commissioning) of Arena.

Research interests:

At the broadest level Professor Altman’s research focuses on social justice and human rights for minority groups globally. More particularly, his research examines appropriate economic development and associated policy for Indigenous Australia; hybrid economy theory and practice; the economic engagement of Indigenous people with the Australian and global economies (especially in mining, tourism, the arts and emerging industries like carbon and solar farming); commercial utilization of wildlife and fisheries; the Indigenous customary economy and its articulations with market capitalism; land rights, native title and Indigenous land and sea management; and theoretical issues in economic and development anthropology

Empirical focus:

Alternate development; Indigenous cultural and natural resource management; Indigenous economies, Indigenous policies, critical theory, neo-liberalism and the state in relation to marginalised groups; property rights, intercultural governance and the limits of western governance in cross-cultural settings.

Methodological interest:

Hybrid forms of development and governance and empirical means to document such alternatives in the face of neoliberal hegemony; empirical measures of inputs, outputs and outcomes in diverse economic settings based on primary data collection.

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Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet