chapter  7
Sentencing Indigenous rioters as if the racism never occurred
Pages 27

Colonialism has cast long shadows over spatial contestations in Australia. NonIndigenous attempts to exclude alterity did not subdue Indigenous claims to land and self-governance, which continue to the present day. It did nonetheless produce a narrative of Indigenous inferiority that delegitimizes Indigenous struggles and portrays Indigenous participants as lacking self-control and reason. Indigenous protesters on the streets especially create a moral panic over their out-of-control nature that is brought to the fore in media and government responses (Cohen 2002). Both refl ecting and projecting these narratives, criminal courts in New South Wales and Queensland share an anxiety about the lack of containment of Indigenous claims to space and challenges to white authority. This is especially true in the last decade, during which rioters were regarded as unjustifi ed in their claims and requiring a severe sentence. However, even when higher courts conceived these claims as reducing rioters’ moral culpability, the courts have consistently pointed to the need for Indigenous people to provide a more measured response that sustains the ‘white’ social order.