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Widening the gap: white ignorance, race relations and the consequences for Aboriginal people in Australia


Taylor, PS and Habibis, D, Widening the gap: white ignorance, race relations and the consequences for Aboriginal people in Australia, Australian Journal of Social Issues, 55, (3) pp. 354-371. ISSN 0157-6321 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 2020 Australian Social Policy Association

DOI: doi:10.1002/ajs4.106


White ignorance has a critical impact on race relations and is implicated in the maintenance of Aboriginal disadvantage. Addressing this ignorance is a largely overlooked capacity‐building opportunity within Australia's non‐Aboriginal population. It warrants consideration as a key component of strategies targeting Aboriginal disadvantage. Despite the established links between race relations and Aboriginal well‐being, Aboriginal perspectives on non‐Aboriginal people rarely feature in public discourse on "Aboriginal problems." This paper draws on data from 180 in‐depth interviews with 44 Aboriginal people in Darwin on the topic of White Australian people, culture and race relations. It reports Aboriginal perceptions of White Australian ignorance across areas of great symbolic and practical significance to Aboriginal people's lives. Their experience is that most White Australians are ignorant of the history of colonisation and the complexities of its aftermath. They are ignorant of Aboriginal law, cultures and languages, and of the extent of their own ignorance. The call to address White ignorance subverts assumptions about whose ignorance and capacity must be dealt with in order to progress national goals of reconciliation, address Aboriginal disadvantage and achieve justice and equality for Aboriginal people.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Indigenous, race relations, Whiteness studies, White ignorance
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology of migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism
Objective Division:Indigenous
Objective Group:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
Objective Field:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander determinants of health
UTAS Author:Taylor, PS (Ms Penelope Taylor)
UTAS Author:Habibis, D (Associate Professor Daphne Habibis)
ID Code:138571
Year Published:2020
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP130100622)
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2020-04-15
Last Modified:2021-01-29

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