Taxation Without Resistance

Native Treasuries in the Northern Territories

Sarah Kunkel


This article analyzes the introduction of direct taxation in the Northern Territories after 1930 in the aftermath of the Forced Labour Convention. To enable the continuance of road maintenance carried out under chiefs, indirect rule, along with Native Treasuries and direct taxation, was introduced in the North. Whereas previous attempts at introducing taxation had been unsuccessful, the Northern Territories became the prime example for treasuries and taxation after 1930. This development from stepchild to poster child will be one focus of this article, as it analyzes how the local population adopted direct taxation. Another focus is the power dynamics around taxation, between the colonial government and the chiefs as well as between the chiefs and their subjects. Was taxation really a means of enforcing a strict power hierarchy? This article will show that, on the contrary, taxation was enforced in pursuit of “pragmatic” colonial objectives, and ultimately obfuscated power relations rather than clarifying them.

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