This project followed from the initial work carried out by the
Outback Livelihoods project in the Tropical Savannas CRC during
2006–07 (see Outback Livelihoods).
It also built upon research published out of Charles Darwin
University (Luckert et al 2007), which pointed to a wide range of
options for Aboriginal employment in natural resource management,
as well as other work indicating divergent (and not all pleasant)
scenarios for northern development (Garnett et al 2008).
In the latter instance, it is clear that the economic choices
made in northern Australia in the near future (the few years after
2009) will have direct implications for the development trajectory
our region takes over the next few decades.
In early 2006, Professor Rolf Gerritsen outlined a theory of a
multiplex economy for northern Australia (Gerritsen
His argument was that only this form of economy would bring
equitable, efficient and sustainable economic and social
development to northern Australia.
The model is consistent with quadruple bottom line (economic,
social, environmental and cultural) notions of development now
conventional in development studies.
It recognizes that current prescriptions for Aboriginal
development are unlikely to reverse their communities’
This multiplex economy comprises three sectors. However, unlike
in the orthodox models of the northern economy, there is an
implicit assumption that the three sectors not only could but
should overlap and interact if the inequity and inefficient
economic and social development characteristic of the current
situation is to be redressed. The project essentially attempts to
develop the parameters that are required for overlap that to be
The three sectors are:
- The private sector. This sector operates in the
conventional micro-economic paradigm. In northern Australia it is
dominated by the export competitive sub-sector, mining, oil and
gas, cattle and (to a degree tourism). It has a secondary, demand
dependent, services sector, which provides the point of economic
intersection with the other sectors of the economy.
- The public sector. This sector provides both regulatory
and fiscal incentives for particular behaviours. It also supplies a
significant proportion of the income that enters Aboriginal
communities (through transfers and program grants). Public
employees dominate the market for consumer goods in many places in
- The Indigenous sector. This sector is currently mostly
dependent upon transfers from the Federal government. The work here
will build upon Altman’s hybrid economy model.
To produce a set of policy prescriptions that would address
inefficiencies in the operation of the Northern Australian
To produce/publish material that will contribute to Northern
Australian development debates.