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Too much ‘Dreaming’: Evaluations of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Intervention 2007–2012

4 December 2012




The Northern Territory National Emergency Response Intervention (the Intervention) of 2007 was a  bold experiment by the Howard Government. The Intervention was developed quickly without  comprehensive policy development based on evidence or consultation. During its five-year statutory  life (ending August 2012), the absence of coherent policy logic has seen the Intervention fundamentally  reframed by the Rudd and Gillard Governments. The unprecedented and controversial nature of the  Intervention has seen extraordinary levels of monitoring, review and evaluation, but the absence of an  overarching evaluation strategy has resulted in a fragmented and confused approach. In this article, we  do not seek to critique the Intervention itself or to assess whether these multiple monitoring and  evaluation exercises have been successes or failures. Indeed, our review illustrates that in highly  contested policy areas, notions of success, failure and the evaluations themselves become politically  charged. Instead we make a series of critical observations regarding this contradictory messiness of  evaluations, using political science and anthropological frameworks to draw wider conclusions about  the nature and logic of evaluation fetishism. We conclude that evaluations of the Intervention have not  led to greater transparency, accountability and monitoring of outcomes and outputs. The Intervention  evaluations instead are consistent with the view that they are both obfuscating mechanisms and  techniques of governance designed to allay public concern and normalise the governance of  marginalised Indigenous Australian spaces.

A systematic evidence review published by ANZSOG’s open access peer-reviewed journal Evidence Base.

Suggested citation

Altman, J. & Russell, S. (2012). Too much ‘Dreaming’: Evaluations of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Intervention 2007–2012. Evidence Base, 2012(3): 1-24, doi 10.21307/eb-2012-003.

Authors: Jon Altman and Susie Russell
Published Date: 4 December 2012