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Prof Jon Altman

STAFF PROFILE

Position

Research Professor

Faculty

Faculty of Arts and Education

Department

Alfred Deakin Institute

Campus

Melbourne Burwood Campus

Contact

jon.altman@deakin.edu.au
+61 3 924 68087

Biography

I am a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University from February 2016. I am also an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University’s located since January 2015 at RegNet: School of Regulation and Global Governance. At the broadest level my research engages with questions of social justice and human rights for minority groups globally. More particularly, I look at issues of appropriate economic development and associated policy for Indigenous Australia; hybrid economy theory and practice; and the economic engagement of Indigenous people with Australian and global capitalism.

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Biography summary

  • Research professor, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University (from 1 February 2016)
  • Emeritus professor linked to the Regulatory Institutions Network (from 1 January 2015)
  • Promoted to Professor E2 (senior research professor) August 2010–September 2014
  • Professor and ARC Australian Professorial Fellow (2008–2013), Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
  • Director and Professor, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1995–2010)
  •  Director and Reader, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1990–1995)
  •  Senior Research Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1988–1990)
  •  Research Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1984–1988)
  •  Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1983–84)
  •  Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts (1982–1983)

Career highlights

Substantive appointments and professional roles:


Research professor, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University (from 1 February 2016)

 

At the Australian National University:

  • Emeritus professor linked to the Regulatory Institutions Network (from 1 January 2015)
  • Promoted to Professor E2 (senior research professor) August 2010–September 2014
  • Professor and ARC Australian Professorial Fellow (2008–2013), Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
  • Director and Professor, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1995–2010)
  • Director and Reader, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1990–1995)
  • Senior Research Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1988–1990)
  • Research Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1984–1988)
  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies (1983–84)
  • Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts (1982–1983)

 

Academic administrative and leadership roles:

In 1990, I was appointed the Foundation Director of CAEPR, initially with a handful of staff. Incrementally over the following 20 years my job as Director fundamentally changed to include more and more staff and research management, university administration, and outreach. In 1999, after a very positive review, CAEPR became a University Centre and from that time it has had about 25 academic and general staff that I have directly supervised, mentored, and with whom I have collaborated. I have managed an annual budget of about A$3 million. From 1990 to 2010, as Director of CAEPR, I would estimate that I spent 40 per cent of my time on research, 20 per cent on teaching, and 40 per cent on administration and management. From mid-2008 as an ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, I sought to reduce my administration and management effort to 20 per cent of my time so as to allow a greater focus on research and graduate training. This goal proved difficult to achieve and so in 2010 I stepped aside from my post as Director of CAEPR to focus all my time on research and graduate training. This change coincided with the integration of CAEPR into the Research School of Social Sciences in the College of Arts and Social Sciences; from 1 January 2010, CAEPR was no longer a university centre.

Expert public policy advice
Even as an early career academic I was involved in providing public policy advice especially from 1984 when I was appointed as an early career academic to chair a review of the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account after recommending such a review on a book Aborigines and Mining Royalties in the Northern Territory (1983). Since 1985 I have used parliamentary inquiries as a means to provide expert advice in a transparent manner and have provided a large number of submissions. In Annex 4, 83 of these are listed with 50 being sole-authored. I have also participated in a number of major reviews always insisting that reports are published to provide transparency and accountability to all stakeholders.

Affiliations

Member, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (now Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), Canberra (1978–)

Fellow, Australian Anthropological Society (1996–)

Member, Economic Society of Australia (1994–2005)

Knowledge areas

My abiding interest over the past three decades plus as a university-based research academic has been on appropriate forms of Indigenous economic development, taking into account the diversity of postcolonial circumstances and heterogeneity of opportunity; much of my primary research has been in regional and remote Australia. I retain a deeply-held commitment to influencing public policy with rigorous, theoretically-informed and empirically-grounded scholarship.

My theoretical shift can be characterised as moving to a greater embrace of critical anthropology of development and political ecology; my aim is to provide both a critique of an increasingly hegemonic state approach to Aboriginal development influenced by neoliberal principles that look to privilege capitalist economic forms. I am looking to develop an alternate paradigm counter to the currently dominant orthodoxy that sees embrace of the ‘real’ economy as the only option. While my framing of alternate development is currently undeniably subordinate it is having some influence.

Expertise

From 1982 to 1990, I held a series of research appointments at ANU that allowed me to meet early career goals to generate world-class research about Indigenous economic issues in Australia. Since 1985, I have focused much of my effort on:

Establishing CAEPR: In 1985, I highlighted to the Miller Review of Aboriginal Employment and Training Programs the urgent need to enhance Australia's capacity to undertake economic research about Indigenous people. It took five years effort to establish CAEPR at ANU.

Developing CAEPR: From 1990, I focused on developing CAEPR into a multidisciplinary centre of national and international standing as recognised in independent reviews in 1991, 1996, 2001 and in the 2004 ANU Quality Review. CAEPR has produced a corpus of over 2,000 publications since 1990; those produced in-house are available for free download on its website.

Developing Research Capacity Elsewhere: I have assisted other research organisations in their development. A major focus has been on the Tropical Savannahs Cooperative Research Centre (1994-2008) and the ARC Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management

From 1999-2004 I have assisted a number of Indigenous research centres, like the Onemda Vichealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne and the North Australia Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA). I have more recently advised the now defunct National Water Commission and Land and Water Australia on Indigenous issues.

Regenerating and Expanding Capacity in Indigenous Research: I have recruited, trained and mentored a new generation of staff and students at CAEPR and have attracted Indigenous staff, visitors and secondments. In 2002, I established an Indigenous Visiting Fellowship Scheme that has a current corpus of $0.8 million with annual income dedicated to host Indigenous scholars at CAEPR

Expert Public Policy Advice
Even as an early career academic I was involved in providing public policy advice especially from 1984 when I was appointed as an early career academic to chair a review of the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account after recommending such a review on a book Aborigines and Mining Royalties in the Northern Territory (1983). Since 1985 I have used parliamentary inquiries as a means to provide expert advice in a transparent manner and have provided a large number of submissions. In Annex 4, 83 of these are listed with 50 being sole-authored. I have also participated in a number of major reviews always insisting that reports are published to provide transparency and accountability to all stakeholders.
  • Aboriginal and Indigenous issues
  • Australia
  • Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Environment and environmental issues
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Foreign aid/international development
  • Human rights
  • National identity
  • Policy
  • Regional/rural development
  • Sustainability
  • Water

Professional activities

  1. Foundation director, Karrkad-Kanjdji Ltd and Trust (2009–)
  2. Member JLF Board (2012–16) just resigned
  3. Director, Uncle Jimmy  Thumbs Up Ltd (2012–)
  4. Arena Magazine Consulting editor (2008–16)
  5. Arena Magazine editor (2016–)
  6. Arena Journal consulting editor (2008–)
  7. Columnist Land Rights News Northern edition (2014–)
  8. Adviser to the Northern Land Council, Darwin
  9. Member, Jimmy Little Foundation Board (2012–present)
  10. Adviser to Australian Greens on Indigenous policy (April 2010–present)
  11. Member, concerned Australians, (2009–  present)
  12. Adviser to Amnesty International (2009–present)
  13. Consulting Editor, Arena Magazine (2008–present)
  14. Regular (monthly from 2011) Columnist, Crikey (2007–present)
  15. Consulting Editor, Arena Journal (2006–present)
  16. Editorial Board, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology (2003–present)
  17. Monthly Columnist, Tracker Magazine, 2011–2014

Adjunct appointments and visiting fellowships:

  •  Visiting Fellow, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra (2013–)
  •  Adjunct Professor, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University (2001–2017, renewable)
  •  Visiting Fellow, Department of Economics, University of Auckland, New Zealand (2006)
  •  Visiting Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2005)
  •  Visiting Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Aarhus, Denmark (2005)
  •  Visiting Fellow, New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (1994)

Media appearances

Articles

 ‘Developing the Aborigines’, Arena Magazine, 115: 7–9, 2011.

(with E. Yarbakhsh), Giving Green Briefing Note – Indigenous Land and Sea Management (Report written on the behalf of the Australian Environment Grantmakers Network), 2012.

(with M. Hinkson), ‘Hope-less futures?’, Arena, 118: 2–3, 2012.

The direction of the review’ in E. Klein (compiler) Academic perspectives on the Forrest Review: Creating Parity, CAEPR Topical Issue No.2/2014, 3–4, 2014.

Book Reviews

Hughes’s Homelands’, A review of Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Homelands’ in Transition, by Helen Hughes, in Australian Book Review, September, 10–11, 2

The boy from Hope Vale’, A review of Up From the Mission: Selected Writings, by Noel Pearson, in Australian Book Review, July–August: 40–41, 2009.

What “Liberal Consensus”? A review of The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of Liberal Consensus’, by Peter Sutton, in newmatilda.com, 16 July 2009.


Getting the Homelands Wrong’, a review of A Different Inequality: The Politics of Debate About Remote Aboriginal Australia, by Diane Austin-Broos in newmatilda.com, 19 August 2011.

Good Living Street: The Fortunes of my Viennese Family’, a review of Tim Bonyhady’s book of the same title, Art Monthly 240: 48–49, 2011


‘Unfinished Business: Chutzpah and Retreats in Perfecting “the Basis of our Citizenship”’, a review of A Rightful Place: Race, Recognition and a More Complete Commonwealth (Quarterly Essay 55) by Noel Pearson, in Australian Book Review, November 2014.

Indigenous Policy “Reform”’, Arena Magazine, 134, 9–12, 2015.

Awards

  •  Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2012–)
  •  Hallsworth Visiting Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester (May–June 2011)
  •  Distinguished Visitor, Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, New Zealand (March 2011)
  •  ARC Australian Professorial Fellow (2008–2013)
  •  George Fairfax Fellow, Deakin University (2005)
  •  Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (2003–)

Projects

  • Developing a New Disciplinary Field—The Indigenous Economy: In 1979, as a young development economist, I co-authored (with J.P. Nieuwenhuysen) The Economic Status of Australian Aborigines on the national situation of Indigenous Australians (republished by Cambridge University Press in 2006). This study was the first to look at Indigenous disadvantage from an economic rather than social welfare perspective; placed Indigenous economic development in a comparative international context; and was the first to highlight regional diversity and to use census data to differentiate Indigenous from non-Indigenous Australians. These are now all standard research practices.
  • Integrating the Economic with Australian Social Anthropology: My PhD and postdoctoral research in the early 1980s resulted in the book Hunter-Gatherers Today that brought an economic focus to contemporary Indigenous ethnography, thus linking Australian anthropology to the vibrant international sub-discipline that is economic anthropology.
  • Pioneering Culturally-Informed Economic Analysis: In the 1980s and 1990s I completed a number of culturally-informed research projects about Indigenous engagement with new industries (the visual arts, tourism, mining) and new institutions (land rights, native title, benefit sharing agreements). I collaborated with my ANU colleague C.A. Gregory to theorise and document this methodology in a book Observing the Economy that has been internationally influential in economic and development anthropology.
  • Developing a New ‘Hybrid Economy’ Framework: I have focused my recent research effort on the development of a new theoretical approach that integrates the concept of the hybrid economy (with a customary non-market sector) with ecological and Indigenous perspectives. This new research field looks to evaluate the conservation value of the Indigenous lands and the role that proper payment for delivery of environmental services can play in enhancing Indigenous wellbeing.

From 1982 to 1990, I held a series of research appointments at ANU that allowed me to meet early career goals to generate world-class research about Indigenous economic issues in Australia. Since 1985, I have focused much of my effort on:

  • Establishing CAEPR: In 1985, I highlighted to the Miller Review of Aboriginal Employment and Training Programs the urgent need to enhance Australia’s capacity to undertake economic research about Indigenous people. It took five years effort to establish CAEPR at ANU.
  • Developing CAEPR: From 1990, I focused on developing CAEPR into a multidisciplinary centre of national and international standing as recognized in independent reviews in 1991, 1996, 2001 and in the 2004 ANU Quality Review. CAEPR has produced a corpus of over 2,000 publications since 1990; those produced in-house are available for free download on its website.
  • Developing Research Capacity Elsewhere: I have assisted other research organisations in their development. A major focus has been on the Tropical Savannahs Cooperative Research Centre (1994–2008) and the ARC Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management (1999–2004). I have assisted a number of Indigenous research centres, like the Onemda Vichealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne and the North Australia Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA). More recently I advised the now defunct National Water Commission and Land and Water Australia on Indigenous issues.
  • Regenerating and Expanding Capacity in Indigenous Research: I have recruited, trained and mentored a new generation of staff and students at CAEPR and have attracted Indigenous staff, visitors and secondments. In 2002, I established an Indigenous Visiting Fellowship Scheme dedicated to host Indigenous scholars at CAEPR.