Policing Aboriginality in Aboriginal policing: cultural labour and policing policy

Cefai, Sarah. 2015. Policing Aboriginality in Aboriginal policing: cultural labour and policing policy. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2015(1), pp. 12-29. ISSN 0729-4352 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper examines the institutional, political and cultural conditions in which Aboriginal Community Police Officers work. The paper contends that as a result of these conditions and their interconnections, various kinds of work carried out by Aboriginal Community Police Officers are inadequately recognised locally within the Northern Territory Police Force, as well as more broadly in the policymaking discourse that constitutes the ‘Aboriginal domain’ (Rowse 1992). While policymaking has fashioned the emergence of modern Aboriginal communities, in particular through the deployment of ‘Aboriginal culture’ as a definitional property, the institutional imaginary in which Aboriginal policing is conceived remains remarkably bereft of any specific notion of cultural work. This paper seeks to address the institutional imaginary by connecting the failure to think of the cultural work involved in Aboriginal community policing to the failure to conceive bureaucratic work as culturally specific. Through the analysis of research and data gathered through focus group interviews with Aboriginal Community Police Officers in the Northern Territory, I demonstrate how the policing bureaucracy inhibits the potential of Aboriginal policing. This analysis calls for the development of Aboriginal career pathways, suggesting that this would ameliorate the pressure placed on Aboriginal Community Police Officers to assimilate to non-Aboriginal policing. By simultaneously recognising and acting on the reproduction of the cultural and normative values of whiteness in the administration of policing, the institutional advancement of Aboriginal policing could strengthen existing Aboriginal Community Policing work, as well as catalyse the means to resist institutional racism.

Item Type:



Aboriginal Community Police Officers, Northern Territory Police Force, Northern Territory, ; Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal culture, Aboriginal policing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


1 September 2014Accepted
June 2015Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Jan 2019 09:50

Last Modified:

25 Jan 2019 09:50

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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