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A Topical Research Paper developed by Dr Tony Dreise of Black Swan Consulting for Aboriginal Affairs New South Wales (AANSW)

June 2019


What is the current state of black-white relationships in Australia? What are Australian states and other countries doing to transform their relationships– including through agreement making – with First Nations peoples? What forms can transformational relationships take, especially given that Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples? What is currently happening in Australia and abroad in terms of overarching agreements (including treaties)and settlements being negotiated and reached between First Nations peoples and colonial states? Can relationships transform, and if so, how? What are the lessons of agreement making to date, and what are the implications for jurisdictions such as New South Wales (NSW)? What can the literature and prior experience of others teach us?

This paper seeks to address these and related questions through a translational
research approach (including through the use of diagrams and images). The paper has
been developed for Aboriginal Affairs NSW (AANSW) to assist communities and policy
developers in considering the topic of ‘agreement making’ between the State and First
Nations peoples. Accordingly, it documents relationships and agreement making
processes, outcomes and limitations between sovereign states and First Nations
sovereign peoples both in Australia and internationally. At the end of the day, agreements will need to be fashioned and reached by Aboriginal communities and elected governments working in tandem.

This paper aims to document how relationships between First Peoples and governments are currently understood. It also examines: the purpose served by any changing of relationships, the changes needed to support positive change, the mechanisms and forms used to achieve the change, how sovereignty, self-determination under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and self-government are understood and how these concepts support positive change, the various geographical footprints at which relationships might be negotiated, and differences in views on the topics listed above between the major actors (e.g. government, First Nations community members, members of the wider public, academics).

This paper also provides the basis for complementary easy-to-follow resources and translational information, that can be disseminated to improve knowledge and to support and sustain community conversations about relationship change.

Together these elements aim to contribute to a bank of resources that enables a common understanding across NSW of how aspects of the relationship could change (including potential agreement making arrangements between government and community).