• Offered by Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Indigenous Studies
  • Areas of interest Australian Indigenous Studies, Economic History, Economic Policy, Applied Economics
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Boyd Hunter
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings

Aborigines have been living in Australia for over 50,000 years and the Indigenous economy has sustained their culture and society for that whole period. This course seeks to use a range of basic economic concepts to understand the nature and operation of that economy in order to critically assess various policy options for effectively addressing the significant socioeconomic challenges facing Indigenous Australians in the modern economy. The inherent complexities of these challenges means that students will be also exposed to a range of insights from other disciplines (e.g.,  philosophy, anthropology and demography) to assess effective policy options that are likely to require a combination of equity or fairness considerations with an efficient allocation of resources.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain basic economic concepts relevant for Indigenous Australia (e.g. scarcity, opportunity costs, supply and demand, comparative advantage, welfare and policy evaluation)
  2. Critically assess the historical value and relative importance of resources (i.e., land, labour and capital) in ongoing Indigenous development
  3. Distinguish between sunk costs and opportunity costs and their respective roles in addressing Indigenous disadvantage.
  4. Categorise, and attempt to theorise, the role of supply and demand-side factors in Indigenous economic development
  5. Compare and contrast Indigenous involvement in various sectors in order to identify the comparative advantage of Indigenous Australians.
  6. Critically assess alternate arguments for efficiency and equity in Indigenous economic development.
  7. Explain the linkages and tensions surrounding Indigenous economic development through written analysis and/or oral presentation.

Indicative Assessment

Comparative Research Paper of 2000 words (20%) Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.

Essay of 2000 words (30%) and Presentation of 10 min (10%) Learning Outcomes 5, 6, 7.

Final Exam, 2 hours, held in the formal examination period (40%) Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

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One 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week for 13 weeks. Students are expected to undertake a further 7 hours of independent study each week during the semester (total workload 130 hours).

Prescribed Texts

Altman, J. and Biddle, N. (2014). Refiguring Indigenous economies: a 21st –century perspective, Chapter 24 in Simon Ville and Glenn Withers The Cambridge Economic History of Australia, CUP, Cambridge, pp.530–55.

Hunter, B.  (2014) ‘The Aboriginal Legacy’, Chapter 4 in Simon Ville and Glenn Withers The Cambridge Economic History of Australia, CUP, Cambridge, pp.73–96.

Preliminary Reading

An excellent introductory overview of Indigenous Australia is provided (for interested students):

Arthur, W.S. and Morphy, F. (eds) (2005). Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, Sydney

  • Austin-Broos, D. and Macdonald, G. (eds) Culture, Economy and Governance in Aboriginal Australia, University of Sydney Press, Sydney (numerous chapters of relevance - especially chapters on discrimination, art, mining).
  • Biddle, N., (2014) 'Insights for Indigenous policy from the applied behavioural sciences' Working Paper No. 94, CAEPR, The ANU, Canberra.
  • Butlin, N.G. (1993), Economics of the Dreamtime: A Hypothetical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  • Fijn, N. Keen, I. Lloyd, C.  and Pickering, M. (eds) (2012), Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies II: Historical Engagements and Current Enterprises (Canberra: ANU E Press). See Altman Chapter for Hybrid Economy.
  • Hunter, B.  (2013). ‘Recent growth in Indigenous self-employed and entrepreneurs ', Working Paper 91, CAEPR, The ANU, Canberra.
  • Hunter, B. and Jordan, K. ( 2010) Explaining Social exclusion: Towards Social Inclusion for Indigenous Australians’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, 45(2): 243–65.
  • Keen, I.(ed.) (2010) Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Canberra : ANU E Press).
  • Langton, M. 2010. ‘The resource curse: New outback principalities and the paradox of plenty’, Griffith Review, 28 (Still the Lucky Country?): 46–62.
  • Thaler, R.H., Sunstein, C.R., and Balz, J.P., (2013) ‘Choice Architecture’ in Shafir, E., (ed) The Behavioural Foundations of Public Policy Princeton University Press

Assumed Knowledge

First year microeconomics level. Some understanding of first year macroeconomics is also desirable but not essential.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $2718
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3876
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8799 18 Jul 2016 29 Jul 2016 31 Aug 2016 28 Oct 2016 In Person N/A

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