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Associate Professor Deirdre Howard-Wagner
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University

In 2019, the Australian city of Perth topped the most liveable city list. The new Perth stadium built as a partnership between BHP Billiton and the Western Australian government was also recognised as the most beautiful stadium in the world at UNESCO Prix Versailles architecture and design awards. The city now hosts key national and international sporting events such as Australia’s State of Origin Rugby league, the Bledisloe Cup, and United Kingdom football matches between clubs Manchester United and Leeds United. Paradoxically, parts of the Perth Stadium are built on Whadjuk burial, mythological and camping sites. Prior to development, the Western Australian government delisted the site as a significant site. It did not fit the Western Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs definition of a recognised sacred site, which had changed to require that a place needs to have been devoted to religious use rather than simply mythological stories, songs or beliefs. This new definition displaced Indigenous knowledge and authority. A reconciling tribute was made to the Whadjuk and Noongar people, recognising the unique position Whadjuk and Noongar culture have in the history and culture of the city. The surrounds of Perth Stadium include Matagarup Bridge, which features an audio art installation to share cultural stories and is a permanent tribute to the Traditional Owners, and on the lawns outside the stadium there is a statue that immortalises Aboriginal footballer Nicky Winmar’s stand against racism. There is Aboriginal artwork featured around the stadium. The paper draws on the work of Agamben and critical race and whiteness scholars to analyse examples of legal and political considerations in relation to Indigenous significant sites in Australian cities, which expose this complex form of reconciliatory inclusive/exclusion in which white sovereignty produces and is reproduced in the geopolitical project of cities (in place) in the neoliberal age.

Associate Professor Deirdre Howard-Wagner is a sociologist and socio-legal scholar and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). She is committed to applied collaborative research with First Nations peoples, adapting sociological methodologies by forefronting Indigenous research principles and designing research to provide evidence-based knowledge that will improve public policy understandings in the areas of justice, a right to the city, community development, overcoming disadvantage and service delivery in urban areas. She has applied the knowledge gathered to draw attention to not only policy limitations, but also First Nations peoples, communities and organisation’s innovative approaches to justice, community development, overcoming disadvantage.

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