Indigenous issues loom particularly large in desert Australia. Although it shares most of the previous elements, Indigenous policy is in a rapidly developing phase where change driven on short-term electoral cycles far outstrips the capacity of remote communities to keep pace. The essence of the current debate is about the degree to which welfare dependency is undermining people’s ability to make choices about their own futures. In its wake we can expect the abolition of CDEP in favour of mainstream programs for the unemployed. Coupled and slightly confused with this, is an intensifying debate about whether society should support the costs of maintaining remote settlements, especially if these are seen as contributing to the poor outcomes for Indigenous people today. This debate is largely uninformed by good data on the real costs and benefits of remote settlements. Although both policy debates are about Indigenous issues in particular, both resonate strongly with quieter issues around the appropriate level of support for other forms of remote settlement in Australia, including pastoral and mining settlements.