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Governing Warlpiri Subjects: Indigenous Employment and Training Programs in the Central Australian Mining Industry


Rebecca Lawrence, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


In remote Australia there is an expanding emphasis on the employment and training of Indigenous people in the mining industry. Employment and training programs are presented as an effective strategy for breaking welfare dependence and empowering individuals and communities to take responsibility for their future. Using the case of programs targeting Warlpiri people's participation in the gold mining industry in the Tanami Region of the Northern Territory of Australia, this paper explores some of the different ways in which Warlpiri people are being governed. It investigates the endeavours, through various practices and discourses, to constitute Warlpiri people as particular kinds of neoliberal and ‘job ready’ subjects. Whilst the employment and training programs claim to respect the culture and liberties of Warlpiri people, there are clearly outlined attempts to construct self-reliant, autonomous and active individuals. Finally, the paper explores the potential links between rationalisations justifying the programs and the current concern, at the level of state and national governments, to direct various populations into work.