About

The Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration (ISRC) acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the unceded land on which the University stands and respectfully recognise Elders past and present.

The Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration (ISRC) will be taking a new direction from 2022. The research unit in its current form will be disestablished at the end of this year. However, our staff, the scholarship, and—most importantly—the relationships we have built and nurtured over the past three years will find new life as the Australian Centre. The reconceived Australian Centre will build on the program and principles developed by the ISRC since its inception in 2016, although marking a turn in this work. Drawing on the relational principles developed by the ISRC, the Centre will turn the lens directly on the settler state, its culture, institutions, sovereignty and identities. We are very excited to welcome Dr Julia Hurst to the team as the Centre’s new Deputy Director. The ISRC extends our greatest thanks to Sana Nakata for her work as ISRC co-director. The ISRC team wish Sana all the best focusing on her role as Associate Dean Indigenous. We also thank all of you for everything that you have contributed to the ISRC and look forward to working together in our new form next year.

Map of Australia

Why relationality?

The ISRC is a multi-disciplinary research unit devoted to exploring the challenges that lie at the heart of relations between Indigenous and settler Australians. We work in partnership with a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations in Australia, using our networks and expertise to explore what might inform, shape and give life to more just relations between Indigenous and settler peoples.

We have made a deliberate choice to focus on relationships and relationality as a site of enquiry, arguing that ‘creating more just relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian state is one of the most profound and important challenges this country faces’ (Nakata & Maddison, 2020).

Our approach to framing this challenge as a field of research draws from the structuralism of both settler colonial studies and decolonial studies / critical race theory. These fields posit that the ongoing injustice in relationships between Indigenous peoples and settler societies is perpetuated by the structures of colonialism and racism.

This is undoubtedly true, and it is important to map and contest those structures, recognising that it is Indigenous people’s ongoing resistance that most often makes these structures visible. At the same time, however, much mainstream scholarship focuses on the lives and bodies of Indigenous peoples, drawing attention away from the structures that perpetuate injustice.

Parliament House in Canberra
Old Parliament House, Canberra

By contrast, our approach centres relationality as a way of decentering disciplinary authority to know Indigenous peoples. Focusing on relations and relationality is expansive. Indigenous settler relations are inevitable and everywhere – in every part of the continent, in every school, hospital, prison and university, in every discipline.

Focusing on relationality reveals and denaturalises the structures of colonialism and racism and opens a productive space for transformative scholarship and engagement. This approach is not without risk, however, as relations are not always among equals. A critical and reflexive approach to Indigenous-settler relations then, becomes a practice of exploring these expansive sites of potential transformation while also considering whether the very relation itself is part of the problem.

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In the collaboration there is a multidisciplinary team of leading researchers that are dedicated to exploring issues relating to Indigenous Settler Relations.

The collaboration is open to both short-term and long-term partnerships and are adaptable to a wide variety research needs. If you believe the ISRC would be a suitable fit for your initiative, research project or partnership then we encourage you to email the ISRC with your enquiry along with relevant contact details.

A summary of the publications produced by collaborators can be seen on the Publications web page.

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