In a context of wide media attention to public debates about the social, political and epistemic entitlements of different groups within Australian society, an understanding of the rhetorical resources and the discursive work done by differing constructions of 'race', has become an important local issue. This article examines data from discussions between two groups of (non-indigenous) university students on a range of contemporary issues concerning race relations in Australia. Participants drew on four common discursive themes when discussing Aboriginal people. These were: an imperialist narrative of Australian history exculpatory of colonialism; an economic-rationalist/neo-liberal discourse of 'productivity' and entitlement managing accountability for a contemporary Aboriginal 'plight'; a local discourse of balance and even-handedness which discounted the seriousness of discrimination and racism in Australia; and a nationalist discourse stressing the necessity of all members collectively identifying as 'Australian'. These interpretative resources are illustrated and discussed in terms of their rhetorical organization and social consequences. The international pervasiveness of a range of modern racist tropes and the local cultural specificity of their working-up are discussed.
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