The Northern Territory National Emergency Response Intervention (the Intervention) of 2007 was a bold experiment by the Howard Government. The Intervention was developed quickly without comprehensive policy development based on evidence or consultation. During its five-year statutory life (ending August 2012), the absence of coherent policy logic has seen the Intervention fundamentally reframed by the Rudd and Gillard Governments.
The unprecedented and controversial nature of the Intervention has seen extraordinary levels of monitoring, review and evaluation, but the absence of an overarching evaluation strategy has resulted in a fragmented and confused approach. In this article, we do not seek to critique the Intervention itself or to assess whether these multiple monitoring and evaluation exercises have been successes or failures. Indeed, our review illustrates that in highly contested policy areas, notions of success, failure and the evaluations themselves become politically charged. Instead we make a series of critical observations regarding this contradictory messiness of evaluations, using political science and anthropological frameworks to draw wider conclusions about the nature and logic of evaluation fetishism.
We conclude that evaluations of the Intervention have not led to greater transparency, accountability and monitoring of outcomes and outputs. The Intervention evaluations instead are consistent with the view that they are both obfuscating mechanisms and techniques of governance designed to allay public concern and normalise the governance of marginalised Indigenous Australian spaces.