Conflict, Politics and Crime: Aboriginal Communities and the Police

By Chris Cunneen | Go to book overview
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3
The nature of colonial policing

Rather than simply present a narrative history of the use of police in the dispossession and control of Indigenous people in Australia, what I intend to do in this chapter is to consider conceptually the features of colonial policing. Through such an analysis it is possible to consider both the continuities and the changes which have occurred in the relationship between Indigenous people and the police. The development of narrative histories of policing Indigenous people in Australia remains an important task—one which is far beyond the ambit of this book. Despite some recent research, how much do we know, for example, of the history of the operations of the Native Mounted Police in Queensland, or more specifically against particular Indigenous nations? Or the work of police in the administration of particular ‘protection’ policies, from the removal of children to the ‘relocation’ of communities? Historically, how did police administrators and officers view their participation in this type of police work?

Much of the history of the interaction between police and Indigenous people is poorly documented. The use of the police (including the native police) in the frontier period was largely devoid of either judicial or public review. Similarly, the administrative functions of the police in enforcing the regulations established within protection legislation almost by definition did not involve scrutiny by the court (Finnane 1994, pp. 124–5). What research and writing on police and Indigenous relations we have tends to be either scattered, relating to particular jurisdictions in particular periods (Fels 1988; Rosser 1990; Milliss 1994), or part of more general histories on either the police (Finnane 1994), the role of law in Australian history (Neal 1991; Kercher 1995) or the history of particular government policy in relation to Aboriginal people (Haebich 1992).

However, the existing research does show that it is imperative

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