This paper explores relationships between public officials and community workers, drawing on empirical data from a study on Indigenous patrols in New South Wales, Australia. Patrol workers interact with public officials from various state entities who are tasked with overseeing funding, carrying out evaluations and, to varying degrees, monitoring the ‘effectiveness’ of local patrol operations. These interactions illuminate several issues regarding the ways in which knowledge about patrols is created, contested and communicated between Indigenous and non-Indigenous domains. The emergent patterns can be described as ‘seagull syndrome’, a sociological phenomenon involving the privileging of some types of knowledge over others in policy and decision-making on Indigenous affairs, often with disastrous consequences for Indigenous communities. The paper considers the implications of seagull syndrome for policy-makers and academics working in the Indigenous justice space.
Dr Amanda Porter is a postdoctoral research fellow at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests focus on policing and criminal justice, specifically with respect to deaths in custody, police accountability, police reform and alternative policing. Her current research project, Decolonising Policing, focuses on efforts to reform the activities and institutions of policing since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Amanda completed her PhD in Criminology at Sydney Law School (2014), in which she examined the everyday operation and politics of night patrols in New South Wales. Amanda is a descendant of the Bringa Yuin people of South Coast NSW.