chapter  6
Sentencing anxieties over ‘degenerates, drunks and criminals’
Pages 26

In the postcolonial mindset, images of Indigenous communities tend to be situated in the bush or backwoods (Edmonds 2010: 5). They lie far beyond the urban streetscape that is shrouded in a fantasy of homogenous whiteness. Where the national imagination contemplates Indigenous alterity, it is associated with pre-colonial practices, ceremonies and rituals. There may be outrage expressed in relation to Indigenous law punishment and cultural marriages, but mainstream institutions nonetheless consider such practices to be ‘Indigenous’. The same cannot be said about urban Indigenous experiences.1 Postcolonial ‘white’ society has struggled to characterize Indigenous people in cities and regional towns as anything more than ‘degenerates, drunks and criminals’ (Dodson 1994a: 11). This is due to a nationalist anxiety about the Other (Hage 2003). The colonial encroachment of Indigenous space produced a ‘stock story’ of the inferiority of Indigenous communities beset with cultural breakdown (due to evolutionary forces) and socio-economic disadvantage (due to their lack of assimilation and integration into the mainstream economy) (Bell 2010; Tingle 2007: 87). These stereotypes are as essentialist as the ones of the ‘traditional’ Indigenous offender but without attracting the same level of sympathy or idealization.