With reference to an ethnographic study of Aboriginal Australians in formal schooling, this paper focuses on the dynamism of the policy process. It argues that social policy is different in its performance from its formal articulation. It proposes that other discourses complicate policy discourse in its implementation, and that the Aboriginal objects of policy respond creatively to their representation in policy in ways that contribute to that complication. Aboriginal political leaders adopt the subject imagined in policy, elaborate its normativity and pressure their constituency to perform it. The routine performance of this subject works to compromise individuals' capabilities to negotiate their lived interculturality and multiplicity, and confirms Aborigines in their marginalisation. Thus, policy becomes a central, authoritative catalyst in the real-world constitution of the subject initially imagined. The paper proposes that if social policy engages with this complexity, it can be effective in its aims of contributing to Aboriginal education and development, and management of the emerging condition of diversity. In both cases, it must account for the discursive and performative agency of the objects of policy, making it necessarily context-specific and revisable.