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A call for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia. Australia is wreaking devastation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Whatever the policy--from protection to assimilation, self-determination to intervention, reconciliation to recognition--government has done little to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people. In A call for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia. Australia is wreaking devastation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Whatever the policy--from protection to assimilation, self-determination to intervention, reconciliation to recognition--government has done little to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people. In far too many instances, interaction with governments has only made Indigenous lives worse. Despite this, many Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders and commentators still believe that working with the state is the only viable option. The result is constant churn and reinvention in Indigenous affairs, as politicians battle over the 'right' approach to solving Indigenous problems. The Colonial Fantasy considers why Australia persists in the face of such obvious failure. It argues that white Australia can't solve black problems because white Australia is the problem. Australia has resisted the one thing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want, and the one thing that has made a difference elsewhere: the ability to control and manage their own lives. It calls for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia.


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A call for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia. Australia is wreaking devastation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Whatever the policy--from protection to assimilation, self-determination to intervention, reconciliation to recognition--government has done little to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people. In A call for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia. Australia is wreaking devastation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Whatever the policy--from protection to assimilation, self-determination to intervention, reconciliation to recognition--government has done little to improve the quality of life of Indigenous people. In far too many instances, interaction with governments has only made Indigenous lives worse. Despite this, many Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders and commentators still believe that working with the state is the only viable option. The result is constant churn and reinvention in Indigenous affairs, as politicians battle over the 'right' approach to solving Indigenous problems. The Colonial Fantasy considers why Australia persists in the face of such obvious failure. It argues that white Australia can't solve black problems because white Australia is the problem. Australia has resisted the one thing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want, and the one thing that has made a difference elsewhere: the ability to control and manage their own lives. It calls for a radical restructuring of the relationship between black and white Australia.

30 review for The Colonial Fantasy: Why White Australia Can't Solve Black Problems

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gray

    Maddison’s book is not an easy read. Written primarily with an academic point of view, this isn’t necessarily the kind of text you can easily pick up and put down again. Yet it’s also difficult because of the truths it represents for Australia: in exploring the colonial fantasy, and the structures that prevent a truth path to Aboriginal sovereignty, Maddison does ask white/settler Australia to confront some ugly truths about our history, our legacy as inheritors of theft, and a future where we w Maddison’s book is not an easy read. Written primarily with an academic point of view, this isn’t necessarily the kind of text you can easily pick up and put down again. Yet it’s also difficult because of the truths it represents for Australia: in exploring the colonial fantasy, and the structures that prevent a truth path to Aboriginal sovereignty, Maddison does ask white/settler Australia to confront some ugly truths about our history, our legacy as inheritors of theft, and a future where we will have to take a good look at our privilege. Or, as Maddison puts it more succinctly, “White Australia can’t solve black problems because white Australia is the problem.”   Effectively a lengthy literature review, Maddison takes several key tentpoles in the discussion – recognition, self-determination, representation, land, intervention, incarceration, closing the gap, and reconciliation – and cites a meticulously collected series of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices from academia, activism, politics, and the media to explain “why such moments can never complete the Australian colonial project, and why something far more radical is required.”  

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alyce Caswell

    A compelling argument and, at times, one that was frustrating to read because of just how badly things have been managed. Maddison gives us facts instead of sensationalism, a relief in today's news climate, and her conclusions based on those facts make a lot of sense. The language in this book is very academic so if you're after an entry point for Aboriginal issues, you might want to try Stan Grant or Dr Anita Heiss first. A compelling argument and, at times, one that was frustrating to read because of just how badly things have been managed. Maddison gives us facts instead of sensationalism, a relief in today's news climate, and her conclusions based on those facts make a lot of sense. The language in this book is very academic so if you're after an entry point for Aboriginal issues, you might want to try Stan Grant or Dr Anita Heiss first.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trent Shepherd

    This book from Ms Madison places the colonial desire for domination and control back into the polical and ethical space of racism. Outlining the racist structures that prevent the release of Australia's Indigenous from finding their own path due to continued colonial settler racist policy. This book from Ms Madison places the colonial desire for domination and control back into the polical and ethical space of racism. Outlining the racist structures that prevent the release of Australia's Indigenous from finding their own path due to continued colonial settler racist policy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Maddison swayed me to agree with her but I struggled with the concept of a white person writing a book about indigenous issues. Although amplifying indigenous voices, it is hard to know how selective she is being in order to bolster her contention. While this was a well written and intelligent book, I can't help but wonder if the energy taken to write this could have gone into compiling a diverse range of indigenous essays on the subject. Still well worth a read for some critical and radical thin Maddison swayed me to agree with her but I struggled with the concept of a white person writing a book about indigenous issues. Although amplifying indigenous voices, it is hard to know how selective she is being in order to bolster her contention. While this was a well written and intelligent book, I can't help but wonder if the energy taken to write this could have gone into compiling a diverse range of indigenous essays on the subject. Still well worth a read for some critical and radical thinking but I'm very interested to read more from indigenous voices she often quotes in the book such as June Oscar, Stan Grant, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Luke Pearson, Mick Dodson and Galarrwuy Yunupingu. I would also highly recommend the book "All Our Relations" by Tanya Talaga which further explores the links between loss of culture through colonisation and First Nations incarceration, suicide and other social inequalities.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rosalie

    The Colonial Fantasy is a well researched and brilliant analysis of the post invasion history of Australia and the "problems" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, many of which were created and prolonged by the "settler" society. The First Nation peoples may experience on a daily basis; racism, disadvantage, poor health, low school attendance and lower life expectancy etc and yet these are problems for the settler society because they introduced the infrastructures with little to no The Colonial Fantasy is a well researched and brilliant analysis of the post invasion history of Australia and the "problems" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, many of which were created and prolonged by the "settler" society. The First Nation peoples may experience on a daily basis; racism, disadvantage, poor health, low school attendance and lower life expectancy etc and yet these are problems for the settler society because they introduced the infrastructures with little to no consultation plus a philosophy of righteous discrimination endures as indigenous peoples existence and rights of sovereignty have never been recognised. The book explains the importance of recognition, self-determination, land and representation in order to improve indigenous disadvantage. The first four chapters examine these First Nations claims but the later chapters consider the policies and regimes deployed by the settler state to maintain the colony fantasy. The chapter titled Recognition includes the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart - “We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda, the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. If we were counted in 1967, in 2017 we seek to be heard…" Which, unfortunately was cast aside by the Turnbull Government and continues to be ignored by the Morrison Government.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Victor

    Leans heavily on the work and commentary of others, but a vital text nonetheless, particularly in 'taking the veil off' for non-indigenous Australians on the problematic issues that persist for First Nation peoples as a result of the modern Australian state. Leans heavily on the work and commentary of others, but a vital text nonetheless, particularly in 'taking the veil off' for non-indigenous Australians on the problematic issues that persist for First Nation peoples as a result of the modern Australian state.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leya Reid

    I owe it to Alison Whittaker for pointing out that ‘unless the focus in Maddison’s book was trained entirely on the coloniser, and unless it didn’t use us as evidence, The Colonial Fantasy was doomed to be another book about Black Problems. That’s what her audience, besieged by the colonial fantasy itself, anticipate and so it’s what they see.’ I recommend reading Whittaker’s review prior to engaging with this text: www.sydneyreviewofbooks.com/review/ma... I owe it to Alison Whittaker for pointing out that ‘unless the focus in Maddison’s book was trained entirely on the coloniser, and unless it didn’t use us as evidence, The Colonial Fantasy was doomed to be another book about Black Problems. That’s what her audience, besieged by the colonial fantasy itself, anticipate and so it’s what they see.’ I recommend reading Whittaker’s review prior to engaging with this text: www.sydneyreviewofbooks.com/review/ma...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lever

    Borderline 4, for its deep scholarship and comprehensive cover. Yet I'm tempted to rate it far lower for its own solipsism. I am hugely cynical of works written around Aboriginal affairs, that adopt or maintain the tropes and mannerisms of elite White academic privilege. They are effectively impenetrable to the average reader, and almost certainly totally impenetrable to the average Aboriginal reader, given available statistics (cited in this book) of Aboriginal educational disadvantage. It's a Borderline 4, for its deep scholarship and comprehensive cover. Yet I'm tempted to rate it far lower for its own solipsism. I am hugely cynical of works written around Aboriginal affairs, that adopt or maintain the tropes and mannerisms of elite White academic privilege. They are effectively impenetrable to the average reader, and almost certainly totally impenetrable to the average Aboriginal reader, given available statistics (cited in this book) of Aboriginal educational disadvantage. It's a very dry read in which any narrative and usually the writers voice is thoroughly outweighed by numerous quotations. Certainly this is the hallmark of western traditional academe, but as an academic in affiliated disciplines I had to force myself to finish the book. I doubt many would without similar incentive. For whom then is the book written? Not for the general public to whom the message is most crucial, nor for Aboriginal people- and I sincerely doubt anyone on the right would wade their way through it. So another book by the white academic elite, for the white academic elite? This is why Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu is such a current sensation. Not because he has said anything new - on the contrary, his findings have been repeatedly preempted by archaeologists over the past 50 years. But nobody in the public ever read what those archaeologists wrote, because the mode of their writing and the location of their publications were all in elitist, alienating academic prose, journals and books. We need more Dark Emu and less Temps Perdu

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pip Snort

    What a confronting book. Deliberately so, Sarah Maddison challenges the idea and legitimacy of Australia and calls for a complete transformation. She pokes and prods at the political underpinnings of Australia in ways that will make even the most progressive feel uncomfortable and calls racist on the whole project. She does not chart a way forward, but let's her challenge sit, wisely, for this is a call that is designed to provoke angst and expects resistance. What a confronting book. Deliberately so, Sarah Maddison challenges the idea and legitimacy of Australia and calls for a complete transformation. She pokes and prods at the political underpinnings of Australia in ways that will make even the most progressive feel uncomfortable and calls racist on the whole project. She does not chart a way forward, but let's her challenge sit, wisely, for this is a call that is designed to provoke angst and expects resistance.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Short

    Compulsory reading Australia This is the most important book for Australian anti-racists to read today. It contextualises Indigenous people’s struggles within the settler-state, horrifies with careful presentation of settler-injustices, and unpacks the ongoing logics of assimilation and power. Truly, compulsory reading for all Australians

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paula Clark

    Not an easy read, but well worth it. An eye opener which, on multiple occasions, angered me no end and made me feel ashamed of being “white” and an “intruder” on their land.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    This should be required reading

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandhu

    It took a while to read this, and yet the book never transcends its title. Don't miss this amazing review from Alison Whittaker: https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/maddi... It took a while to read this, and yet the book never transcends its title. Don't miss this amazing review from Alison Whittaker: https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/maddi...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Willems

    Fundamental to understanding race in Australia.

  15. 4 out of 5

    RM

    It's all there in the title. It's all there in the title.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ovi Rajasinghe

  18. 4 out of 5

    Addy Ringwald

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tessabella Jetnikoff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maddy Pugin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Derek Finnigan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nerida Lee

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ziggy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Weiss

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Cam

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ro McCoy

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