Understanding 'Reinvention Engagement Resurgence': Evaluating mutuality and autonomy in Indigenous-state cooperative governance

Indigenous-state cooperative governance is viewed as a tangible means to accommodate self-governing rights of Indigenous peoples. Cooperative arrangements, including shared decision-making, regional autonomy, pluralistic law-making, negotiations protocols, consultations and land and resource co-management schemes are practiced around the world in countries with large and small Indigenous populations. However, while some first nations have benefited from such arrangements, a growing body of literature on Indigenous Resurgence is challenging the equity and recognition that state-engineered cooperative governance claims to provide.

Central to Resurgence theory is the assertion that engagement with the state through state processes always costs Indigenous peoples because state processes are centred on dispossession (Simpson, 2016). In response, some Indigenous nations are actively seeking to reinvent the engagement space between themselves and state-entities by repoliticising the governance dialogue (Curran, 2019) and establishing cooperative arrangements based on mutuality and autonomy. In this paper I explore engagement resurgence, differentiating between ‘challenge engagement’ and ‘reinvention engagement’, looking at examples from North and South America and Southeast Asia. I unpack mutuality and autonomy as key elements of reinvention engagement and propose a framework for evaluating their presence in Indigenous-state cooperative governance arrangements. The key research question is how do mutuality and autonomy manifest in Indigenous-state cooperative governance arrangements? A secondary question is how might these elements be evaluated?


Anya Thomas is a Phd candidate in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Melbourne. She has an MA and Human Security and Peacebuilding from Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada and has worked in treaty negotiations, conflict sensitivity and intergovernmental relations in Canada, Nepal, Cambodia and Australia. Her research interests include Indigenous diplomacy, cooperative governance and self-determination. Anya is a recipient of the University of Melbourne Human Rights Scholarship and commenced her Phd in March 2019.


Professor Sarah Maddison is Professor of Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, and Director of the Australian Centre. 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.