Closing the Gap: Examining how the problem of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage is represented in policy

Jessica Dawson, Martha Augoustinos, David Sjoberg, Kootsy Canuto, Karen Glover, Alice Rumbold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Policymaking is increasingly being recognised as a value-laden process in which social problems are not simply identified and measured, but discursively produced. The current study examined how the problem of Indigenous disadvantage is produced within the original Closing the Gap policy framework, to identify underlying assumptions and problem representations. Bacchi's “What's the Problem Represented to be?” approach was used as the analytic framework, with critical discursive analysis used for a fine-grained discourse analysis. Findings indicate that the problem of Indigenous disadvantage is produced in culturally limited terms, demonstrates lifestyle drift and relies on deficit-based narratives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, which collectively work to produce disadvantage as a product of individual behaviours, and problematises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as inherently dysfunctional. Potential lived effects of these discourses are discussed, and future areas of research are identified.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 10 Jul 2020


  • Aboriginal
  • Indigenous policy
  • deficit discourse
  • lifestyle drift
  • problem representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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