Relationalist ethical impulse amidst colonial violence

This webinar is the second in the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration's 2021 Critical Public Conversations series: Exploring Indigenous Settler Relations

Relationalism is a central conceptual and practical feature of Aboriginal political ordering. We first articulate some of the key elements and characteristics of this relationism as posited in our contribution to the recuperative work of articulating Aboriginal political philosophy. Second, we argue that this relationalism enables and produces an ethical impulse contra survivalist and sovereign tendencies of western political thought, leading to the claim that relationalism is a vehicle for the pursuit of Aboriginal-informed political ordering and Australian nation-building. Third, we ask: How might such relationalism be mobilised amidst our present settler-colonial relations? We argue that recalibrating relations with land and place are a way to begin, but that mobilising relationalism requires viscerally inhabiting relations of intimate entanglement that mix support with destruction, care with brutal violence (including the state killing of deaths in custody), and appreciation with shocking disregard.


Dr Mary Graham, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. She has worked across several government agencies, community organisations and universities including:  Department of Community Services, Aboriginal and Islander Childcare Agency, the University of Queensland and the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action. Mary has also worked extensively for the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, as a Native Title Researcher and was also a Regional Counsellor for the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Mary has been a  lecturer with The University of Queensland, teaching Aboriginal history, politics and comparative philosophy.  She has also lectured nationally on these subjects, and developed and implemented ‘Aboriginal Perspective’s’, ‘Aboriginal Approaches to Knowledge’ and at the post-graduation level ‘Aboriginal Politics’ into university curricula.

Associate Professor Morgan Brigg, Director Rotary Program, Indigenous Engagement & Associate Professor, School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. He is a specialist in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, governance, development and innovative approaches to cross-cultural relations and the politics of knowledge. Morgan’s work facilitates exchange between Western and Indigenous political philosophies and socio-legal orders as part of a wider exploration of the politics of cultural difference, governance, and selfhood. His current research examines how ideas of relationality can be used to a) re-theorise improved engagement with diverse global peoples and traditions, b) de-colonise political science, and c) to advance Indigenous-Settler relations.


Professor Sarah Maddison, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts and co-director of the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration, the University of Melbourne. She is particularly interested in work that helps reconceptualise political relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian settler state, including critical examinations of a range of relevant public policies. Her recent work has focused on the treaty process in Victoria, and she is currently working with the Australian Centre’s Deputy Director, Julia Hurst, exploring the role of truth-telling in treaty making. Sarah has also designed the Professional Certificate in Treaty, which includes the Preparing for Treaty series of Melbourne MicroCerts.

Sarah has published widely in international journals and is the author or editor of nine books including, most recently, The Colonial Fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve black problems (2019). Her other books in the field include The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation (2016), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (2015), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (2011), and Black Politics (2009). Sarah has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2011-14, undertaking a project that examined reconciliation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Guatemala. Her current ARC project is exploring intersections in Indigenous and settler governance regimes.

The presenters have granted permission for this recording to be used for personal viewing and educational purposes.