Published in the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association e-journal (2008)

Traditional constructs of inequality and discrimination to explain the life chances of indigenous Australians have been supplanted by the discourse of disadvantage.

The boundaries of exclusion are made less clear by the emergence of inclusive discourse related to increased access and participation (outcomes) in which it is premised that disadvantage is the absence of opportunity and that the promotion of advantage will ameliorate disadvantage. In their critique of the rhetoric of outcomes, Smyth and Dow (1998) argue that outcomes fit the need for certainty in a world of increasing uncertainty. I borrow from Smyth and Dow’s (1998) framework of central control to propose that mainstreaming, as a statement of inclusion, paradoxically, obscures institutional practice. Through a reading of disadvantage represented in social, education and vocational training policy, I identify a set of themes that rename traditional group inequalities related to class and race as economic, individual and or cultural disadvantage respectively.