The Most Suitable Way to Recognize Australia's Indigenous Peoples

The most suitable way to recognize Australia's indigenous peoples is to negotiate one or more treaties with them. The Australian government and some indigenous countries have had numerous conversations about crafting a treaty. (Krijnen, Pg. 69). Recent developments regarding treaties between non-indigenous and indigenous Australians led to these talks. (Abat, Pg. 48). The recognition of the indigenous Australians may result from these negotiations, which are important stages.

Treaties as a Way to Settle Disputes

Treaties are widely recognized as a way to settle disputes between indigenous peoples and those who colonized their lands. Treaties can be referred to as formal agreements that are reached through respectful negotiations where all the sides can accept several responsibilities (Campbell, Pg. 104). They recognize indigenous peoples as prior occupiers and owners of the land and hence, have the right to self government. At the same time, treaties recognize structures of appropriate governance as well as means of control and decision making. Treaties as a form of recognition have succeeded in several nations such as the United States and New Zealand (Havemann, Pg. 159).

The Treaty Process in Australia

A$4.4 million has been set aside by the government of South Australia for a treaty process which has been found as an important step in the reconciliation process. It is assumed that the results of the settlement will be considered (French, Pg. 128). The Victorian government made an announcement in February about its commitment for negotiating a treaty with the indigenous nations residing within the state. Several forums have been held across the state following the decision (Belmessous, Pg. 186). Currently, an interim working group is planning the steps to be followed in the treaty making process.

Other Forms of Recognition

Other forms of recognition have failed in the attempt to recognize the indigenous peoples of Australia. Looking at the constitutional form of recognition, it is now almost six years since the establishment of the Expert Panel on Indigenous Australians Constitutional Recognition (Ivison, Paul and Will, Pg. 99). However, the federal government has faced difficulties in an attempt to achieve a successful referendum which is an indication that the process has not gone anywhere (Saunders, Pg. 219). Irrespective of the different expert and parliamentary reports, there is no government that has ever committed to this model (Williams and David, Pg. 86). It is even worse that the final report for the panel never received any formal response from the government.

Looking back in 2015, similar results were achieved by the parliamentary joint committee on the aboriginal constitutional recognition. Three weeks after the report delivery, the chairman of the committee within his party, acknowledged that conservatives would not accept any of his recommendations (Siljander, Pg. 65). In 2015 December the referendum council, another body, was established to offer advice on progress towards the referendum.

The referendum council body is currently in negotiations with indigenous Australians trying to obtain their ideas on plans and reform so as to deliver a report before the end of 2017. It is assured that the government is going to engage with this report (Thompson, Pg. 117). However, the government has tried to push out the set time frame and any vote is currently expected before 2018 where it is still not clear on what Australians will be asked to vote for.

The Problem with Constitutional Recognition

The major problem with constitutional recognition is the disconnection amongst the indigenous aspirations and the federal government. While the government is pushing for constitutional tinkering and symbolic acknowledgement, the indigenous people want more meaningful reforms which will cause great effects on their daily lives (Nakata, Pg. 176). As a result, Australians are more attracted to treaties and hence making it the best form of recognition.

Treaties as the Best Form of Recognition

At the state level, treaty processes have important consequences on indigenous recognition. Treaties can provide a foundation for further treaties with indigenous peoples if they are effectual and can deliver meaningful change (Morris, Pg. 197). Another thing, treaties mark a very important shift in attitude in negotiations with indigenous peoples to reach agreement on terms that are acceptable to both parties. Treaties would represent a break from a system which has disregarded indigenous Australians for many years and reinforced their powerlessness feelings (Kunnie, Pg. 116). Finally, the developments of treaties can revive the process of constitutional recognition through delivering meaningful change to indigenous Australians.


From all these explanations, it is evident that treaties are the best form of recognition for the indigenous peoples of Australia. Being the most desirable form of recognition, people are most likely to get engaged with treaties as compared to the other forms. It is important to go by the will of people for success. This form of recognition has successes in other countries including the United States and New Zealand. Irrespective of the challenges associated with these treaties, it can bring a solution to the Australian indigenous recognition and hence, the most appropriate form.

Work cited


Abat, i N. A. Constitutional Violence: Legitimacy, Democracy and Human Rights. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. Print.

Belmessous, Empire by treaty: Negotiating European expansion, 1600-1900, 2015.

Campbell & Campbell. Parliamentary privilege. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press. 2003.

French, Robert. Reflections on the Australian Constitution. Annandale, NSW: Federation Pr, 2003. Print.

Havemann, Paul. Indigenous Peoples' Rights: In Australia, Canada & New Zealand. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Ivison, Duncan, Paul Patton, and Will Sanders. Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. Print.

Saunders, Cheryl. It's Your Constitution: Governing Australia Today. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press, 2003. Print.

Krijnen, Christian. Recognition-german Idealism As an Ongoing Challenge. , 2014. Print.

Kunnie, Julian, and Nomalungelo I. Goduka. Indigenous Peoples' Wisdom and Power: Affirming Our Knowledge Through Narratives. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 2006. Print.

Morris, Shireen. "Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, Non-Discrimination and Equality Before the Law: Why Reform Is Necessary." Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 26 (sept. - Oct. 2011), P. 7-14. (2011). Print.

Nakata, Martin N. Indigenous Peoples, Racism and the United Nations. Altona, VIC: Common Ground Pub, 2001. Print.

Siljander Pauli. Schools in Transition: Linking Past, Present, and Future in Educational Practice. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2017. Internet resource.

Thompson, Simon. The Political Theory of Recognition: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge [u.a.: Polity, 2006. Print.

Williams, George, and David Hume. Human Rights Under the Australian Constitution. , 2013. Print.

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