Journal article

Seagull syndrome: relationships between patrol workers and government officials in NSW, Australia

1 Mar 2017


This paper explores the nature of relations between public officials and community workers, drawing on empirical data from a study on Indigenous patrols in New South Wales, Australia. Patrol workers interact with public officials from various state entities who are tasked with overseeing funding, carrying out evaluations and, to varying degrees, monitoring the ‘effectiveness’ of local patrol operations. These interactions illuminate several issues regarding the ways in which knowledge about patrols is created, contested and communicated between Indigenous and non-Indigenous domains. The emergent patterns of these relations can be described as ‘seagull syndrome’, which involves the privileging of some types of knowledge over others in decision-making regarding Indigenous affairs, often with disastrous consequences for Indigenous organisations and communities. The paper documents the core features of seagull syndrome with respect to the discrete practices, everyday decision-making and mundane communication between public officials and patrol workers in New South Wales. It considers the implications of seagull syndrome for policy-makers and academics working in the Indigenous justice space and suggests ways to resist or challenge this tendency

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