Obliged to be Difficult: Nugget Coombs' Legacy in Indigenous Affairs

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Since the 1967 constitutional referendum, Australian governments have moved towards policies of indigenous self-determination. Obliged to be Difficult, first published in 2000, presents the central issue of self-determination as seen by Dr H. C. Coombs, the most important policy maker since the referendum: through what political mechanisms will indigenous Australians find their own voice? Coombs was singularly influential within government in the years 1967 to 1976, and he remained a tireless critic and policy advocate from 1977 to 1996. Rowse's narrative of his work, drawing on many unpublished sources, illuminates the interplay of government policy with indigenous practice. This book is both an account of government policies and a biographical slice of an outstanding Australian. In attempting a critical celebration of Coombs' vision and methods, it invites informed reflection on the issues of land rights, sovereignty and reconciliation in these conservative, and highly anxious, times.