'If Those Old Women Catch You, You're Going to Cop It': Night Patrols, Indigenous Women, and Place Based Sovereignty in Outback Australia
African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies: AJCJS, Vol.8, Special Issue 1: Indigenous Perspectives and Counter Colonial Criminology, November 2014
23 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Mar 2015
Date Written: November 30, 2014
Night Patrols (‘patrols’) are a uniquely Indigenous Australian form of community self-policing. Patrols do not fit neatly into established paradigms of ‘policing’ emanating from the Global North. They are not part of the apparatus of the state police, nor do they offer commodified private security services and, unlike mainstream police, they cannot legitimately call on a reservoir of coercive powers to ensure compliance. In this article we sketch out what we describe as the ‘contested space’ of Indigenous self-policing, as represented by patrols, through a post-colonial lens, paying particular attention to the role of Indigenous women’s agency in creating, nurturing and sustaining night patrol work within an Indigenous ethics of care and notions of well-being. Drawing on international critical post-colonial scholarship we tease out the links between patrol work and broader expressions of sovereign power embedded in Indigenous law. Our key contention is that there are learnings from the Australian experience for other post-colonies, where there are kindred debates regarding the balance between Indigenous and colonial systems of justice and policing. We highlight the experience of patrols in the Northern Territory (NT) where the policing of Indigenous space and place have become a key priority for the Australian Government after a major focus on issues of child abuse and family violence.
Keywords: Indigenous justice, policing, postcolonial theory
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