The colonial practice of rationing goods to Aboriginal people has been neglected in the study of Australian frontiers. This book argues that much of the colonial experience in Central Australia can be understood by seeing rationing as a fundamental, though flexible, instrument of colonial government. Rationing was the material basis for a variety of colonial ventures: scientific, evangelical, pastoral and the post-war program of 'assimilation'. Combining history and anthropology in a cultural study of rationing, this book develops a new narrative of the colonisation of Central Australia. Two arguments underpin this story: that the colonists were puzzled by the motives of the Indigenous recipients; and that they were highly inventive in the meanings and moral foundations they ascribed to the rationing relationship. This study goes to the heart of contemporary reflections on the nature of Indigenous 'citizenship'.