Rhetoric, Aboriginal Australians and the Northern Territory Intervention: A socio-legal investigation into pre-legislative argumentation

James Andrew Roffee

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Presented within this article is a systematic discourse analysis of the arguments used by the then Australian Prime Minister and also the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in explaining and justifying the extensive and contentious intervention by the federal government into remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. The methods used within this article extend the socio-legal toolbox, providing a contextually appropriate, interdisciplinary methodology that analyses the speech act s rhetorical properties. Although many academics use sound-bites of pre-legislative speech in order to support their claims, this analysis is concerned with investigating the contents of the speech acts in order to understand how the Prime Minister s and Minister for Indigenous Affairs argumentations sought to achieve consensus to facilitate the enactment of legislation. Those seeking to understand legislative endeavours, policy makers and speech actors will find that paying structured attention to the rhetorical properties of speech acts yields opportunities to strengthen their insight. The analysis here indicates three features in the argumentation: the duality in the Prime Minister s and Minister s use of the Northern Territory Government s Little Children are Sacred report; the failure to sufficiently detail the linkages between the Intervention and the measures combatting child sexual abuse; and the omission of recognition of Aboriginal agency and consultation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131 - 147
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Discourse analysis
  • Northern Territory intervention

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