Going forward holding back

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There is a certain tension in Aboriginal affairs in northern Australia, as Aboriginal people are attracted to the material aspects of modernisation while at the same time resisting deeper levels of social and cultural transformation. People of remote Aboriginal towns today are far more mobile than were their grandparents’ generation, acquiring four wheel drive vehicles or using other means of transport to greatly extend their range of travel into remote homelands and into regional cities. This mobility, together with the impact of modernisation through government policy and wider social interactions, has led to a varied range of potential and actual life styles, from attempts to live on the land in remote homeland locations, to mixed sedentary/hunter-gatherer living in remote Aboriginal towns, to migration to life in the city. From an analysis of these three settings based on the Aboriginal town of Lockhart River, Cape York Peninsula, it is evident firstly that modern technologies are appreciated for their utility in ‘making life easy’ and interesting. It is also evident, however, that the compelling solidarities of kin ties and obligations bind people in a diasporic community that has priority over the compelling forces of cultural change through Western systems of governance, commercialism, individuality and competition. A variety of emerging bicultural lifestyles is evident.


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