Historical Geography and the nature of public space: Exploring how the settler-state employs neoliberal logics to transform the Indigenous estate.

Mr Paul Dornan1

1Swinburne University Of Technology, Melbourne, Australia


With neoliberalism established as global political and economic orthodoxy, the public space has come under increasing threat. Collective social organizations, such as those that feature in many of the world’s Indigenous populations constitute a long-standing anathema to neoliberal logics that espouse eminence of the free-market. Specifically, the social organization of Aboriginal communities in remote Australia does not comport with neoliberalism’s ethic of individualism and has therefore become a critical site of contestation as the settler state attempts to encroach upon the Indigenous estate and irrevocably alter its design. The present article suggests that Historical Geography can provide a unique analysis of neoliberal inspired projects that aim towards the permanent transformation of the public space. By focusing on the historical use, and development of Aboriginal reserves by the settler state, the article foreshadows a decolonizing Historical Geography that explores how geographical space is altered to dispossess Aboriginal people from their land.


Third year PhD student at Swinburne University researching how a neoliberal notion of responsibility has shaped Australian Government Indigenous policy as part of an ongoing settler colonial dialectic of domination.

Paul Dornan

Swinburne University of Technology



The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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