Do housing markets reproduce logics of settler-colonial dispossession? Evidence from the current land boom in Australian cities

Dr Francis Markham1

1Centre For Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


It is indisputable that the establishment of private markets for stolen land played a crucial role in consolidating the colonial invasion of Australia. The racist nature of colonial land markets was intensified by legal and extralegal barriers that prevented First Nations people from land ownership until the second half of the twentieth century. However, from the 1960s, legal barriers to private land ownership were incrementally removed and limited land rights were granted, commencing an historical era discursively characterised by formal equality and, for a period, government support for Indigenous self-determination.

In this paper, I draw on literature from the disciplines of Indigenous studies and urban political economy to question the conventional historiography that expediently locates the settler-colonial dispossession of First Nations people in the past. Through a quantitative analysis of Census records, longitudinal surveys and property sales data in Australian cities over the last decade, I ask whether and to what extent private land markets reproduce the settler-colonial logics of First Nations dispossession. In particular, I examine the role of the urban land boom in disproportionately distributing material wealth to settlers, thereby entrenching existing settler-Indigenous power differentials.


Francis Markham is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University. Integrating critical geographic theory with quantitative data and methods, he has published on the spatial political economy of the contemporary gambling and tourism industries, and Indigenous social policy.

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