University of Tasmania
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Attribution Analysis: A critique of the policy paradigm with a case study of the Northern Territory Emergency Response

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:20 authored by Wendy Aitken
There have been many critiques of rational public policy processes but none have been able to counter the power of the dominant hegemony that employs them. This thesis shifts the ground of the discussion. Not in an attempt to win the contest in a fight for the dominance of ideas, but to question that very 'contest' itself. By challenging the problem solving model's claim to rationality, the validity of the problem-focus in public policy is undermined. A critical analysis of attribution theory, from the discipline of social psychology, proves fruitful in this endeavour. It reveals the problem solving model as a product of patriarchy, and that patriarchy is actually an unconscious, irrational process of the masculinist frame. Transformative community development offers some simple principles to counteract and resolve the negative exacerbation cycles of patriarchy. Thus, several disciplines are employed to reconceptualise the policy paradigm and construct an analytical model: attribution analysis. This framework is then employed to analyse the discourse of the powerful. The efficacy of attribution analysis is demonstrated with a case study in Australian Indigenous policy. The Northern Territory Emergency Response re-established openly paternalistic policy in Indigenous communities in 2007. An examination of the decision ‚Äö- and the (lack of) process used to reach it ‚Äö- shows that it failed to meet even its own normative policy models. This could be explained as a failure to employ such models effectively. However, the application of attribution analysis provides an alternative explanation. It demonstrates the masculinist frame creates exacerbation cycles that maintain and reinforce the 'problem'. It is time for a shift in the dominant paradigm.


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