First Nations Policy Futures - Cancelled

Krystal Hurst, Worimi Nation, 'Southern Cross' (detail), 2020


Date & time

Wed 08 Dec 2021, 9am – Fri 10 Dec 2021, 5pm



Cancellation of the First Nations Policy Futures National Conference, 8-10 December 2021

The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), at the Australian National University, regrettably informs the cancellation of First Nations Policy Futures National Conference from 8-10 December 2021.

In challenging times due to the current pandemic situation, CAEPR has a responsibility to ensure that all communities remain safe. The Conference and its incredible impact was to be from the coming together of many sectors and communities across the country, connecting, looking to the future. The current pandemic makes it hard for many to travel, and thus this difficult decision has been made.

For any enquiries regarding the conference cancellation please contact Minda Murray, CAEPR, 

We look forward to working with communities and sectors in many other ways to create positive impact and change.


Tony Dreise

Professor of Indigenous Policy Research and Director

Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research



Narragunawali ngalawiri dhunminyin

Coming together sitting and talking

First Nations Policy Futures  - to submit a call for presentation or register please visit


National Conference and Cultural Festival

A gathering of community leaders, policy practitioners and researchers to First Nations policy through three themes: Country, Livelihoods and Political Settlement

08 to 10 December 2021, Australian National University, Canberra


You are warmly invited to a National Conference (featuring Australian and international speakers) to consider how policy can be made better for, with, and by First Nations peoples. The Conference will bring together diverse perspectives from the fields of research, policy, and practice and engage participants through a variety of forums and participatory sessions. This special event will also showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural contributions to film, literature, art, dance, and music. 

This national event will be held in the 31st year of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). Having been at the forefront of policy research for three decades, CAEPR is inviting you to contribute to a new narrative and discourse, as we reflect on the past thirty years and envision our future. 

This conference comes at a time of deep deliberation about the concept of ‘voice’ and First Nations place in Australia’s national affairs.


Conference themes and streams

The Conference has three themes: 

  1. Country: to explore how policy development can better reflect the diversity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander way of knowing, being, doing and opportunities of ‘Country’ as understood by First Nations peoples and others. For example, do First Nations peoples have the answers to better land, fire, and water management practices? Is Country the answer to wellbeing?
  2. Livelihoods: to consider past, present and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander livelihoods from the perspectives of economy, employment, wellbeing, and place development. What does a life well lived for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait person mean? What are our current policy assumptions? Whose voices are heard and engaged with in shaping policies as they relate to livelihoods? Which voices are being unlistened to?
  3. Political settlement: to examine how self-determination and sovereignty might gain greater traction in Australia? Are ‘Voice’ and ‘Treaty’ the only answers? What could they contribute? How do we reflect the diverse possibilities of First Peoples, time, and place? 


Showcasing culture

As part of the Conference, ANU will be hosting a small scale festival of culture and connection, story and art, including poetry slams. Drawing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural expressions and knowledges through music, dance, stories, film, language, science and art (including the many cultural treasures that reside in ANU), the festival will allow participants to engage in deep reflection and conversations about our collective stories, relationships, connections, custodianship of cultural spaces and possibilities.


Image: Southern Cross by Krystal Hurst (2020)

An invitation to you as possible presenters

Researchers, policy practitioners, and Indigenous communities of practice all have an opportunity to contribute to this national gathering. For those who are keen to offer a presentation to the Conference, please submit a written abstract of up to 250 words by Sunday 15 August 2021. Other contributions to the Conference could be in the form of a Poster, a digital presentation, a narrative argument, or even a poetic contribution to our proposed ‘Policy Slams’.

We will also be directly approaching some of you – including as keynote speakers - to contribute to themed discussion forums and yarning circles.

We would also like to fashion the Conference in a way that provides for safe ‘Debate Chambers’. Some would like to think that the ‘evidence base’ in Indigenous affairs is settled, and yet there is no doubt about an ongoing contestation in Indigenous policy.

What we’re saying, and inviting, is your ideas about how we can make this gathering interactive and dynamic as opposed to people sitting and listening while others are talking ‘at’ people. Yes, there will be standard keynote addresses from thought leaders and presentations to enable participants to share insights into policy, research, and practice; but we also want to shake things up by providing safe spaces for exchange, discourse and innovative thinking. One thing we know for sure, is that the status quo in Indigenous affairs isn’t cutting it.

Please be aware that some topics, forums and conversations may be sensitive and protocols to ensure cultural safety and safe and respectful interactions will be outlined and acknowledged prior to those sessions.

An invitation to you as contributors

If you do not have a formal presentation to offer please come and join us for three days of discussion, lateral thinking, and understandings informed by thinkers and doers from national and international policy makers, researchers and communities of practice in First Nations affairs.

The framework for the Conference and Festival is intended to accommodate diverse thinking and engagement, including those who might want to question and reconstruct current approaches to Indigenous policy making.


If you would like to submit a paper, provide a workshop, be part of a Themed Discussion Workshop, a themed Question and Answer Panel discussion, a Structured Debate Chamber, a Yarning Circle or our proposed Policy Poetry Slam, please indicate your interest as a Contributor. If you are interested in participating in/providing input into more than one type of session, please indicate below.


Please consider and address the following questions in all submissions/contributions and papers:

  1. How can you contribute to changing the dialogue and discourse through a communities of practice, policy or research lens?
  2. What is your next step as we look toward the next thirty years in Indigenous policy, research and collaborative engagement with Indigenous communities of practice?


Throughout the conference we will be engaging in participatory practices. There will be boxes located throughout the conference locations as idea and feedback hubs. We will also be using the mobile app mentimeter  Conference delegates and participants will be invited to download this app which will be used throughout workshop and participatory sessions to allow the audience to provide feedback to questions and ideas and to ask questions.

Further guidance and explanations are provided below.


Themed discussion workshop

If you would like to present and share ideas, research, policy and/or practice please consider submitting a paper and workshop proposal.  While written papers are encouraged as background reading for Conference participants, presentations at the Conference will need to be brief. Papers may also be selected as part of a post conference monograph. Presentation titles should be 10 words or less and abstracts no more than 250 words.  

We anticipate themed workshop sessions along the following lines:

  • Treaties? Processes and Prospects
  • Voices: Recognition and Representation through Political Settlement Processes
  • Land Rights and Native Title: Past Contributions, Future Potential
  • Learning from Country: Possibilities and Lessons
  • Truth Telling: Addressing Injustice, Exclusion and Trauma, Identifying Cultural Strengths and Resilience
  • Indigenous led futures: Wellbeing on and off Country


We anticipate a large number of themed workshop sessions, so you will need to summarise your argument and findings in a few slides that you can speak to in 30 minutes, including time for collective conversations and questions. Please inform us of any information technology requirements. 

All workshop rooms will have access to audio and visual technologies, including the ability to record sessions. If you have any additional requirements please indicate these as part of your workshop expression of interest registration.


Themed question and answer panel discussions

This process will be driven by interaction between invited panellists and the audience in addressing some of the complex challenges in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. The panels will be designed to be an engaging and reflective of a diverse range of views and expertise from the fields of research, policy and communities of practice. Through these panels, we aim to provide a safe environment where people can share their views, and ask questions, creating opportunities for further robust and thoughtful discussion.

We encourage everyone attending a themed Question and Answer panel to consider submitting a question below. These questions will be collated prior to the conference and a short list of questions will be devised for the panel based on those we receive.

We anticipate themed question and answer panel discussions to include the following:

  • The diverse stories of Country: (Re)connecting through interconnections
  • Decolonising gender discussions in First Nations policy and research
  • First Nations women on policy and research in the Asia Pacific region
  • Native Title Compensation
  • Treaties? Processes and prospects in the Australian context
  • Treaties? What can we learn from an international First Nations perspective
  • Fire and fire management
  • Connecting Water and Country
  • Reclaiming and (re) connecting through Indigenous knowledge systems of time and space 


Structured Debate Chamber

The purpose of structured debate chambers is to bring researchers, policy makers and communities of practice together in a structured and safe environment. The facilitated process will encourage debate/discussion; create room for diverse ideas, experiences and thinking, through structured processes which will enable participants who may not normally feel “safe” or able to engage to contribute to the topic. Each debate will be involve structured guidelines for all participants to ensure that debates do not turn into “never ending conversations” but allow for reflection and consideration of diverse views. 

The processes will include an opportunity for participants to reflect on their own “next steps” in addressing the topic through collating the ideas that can inspire new thinking, critical reflection, consideration of new ways of doing business and possibilities.

The structured debate chambers will create safe but robust spaces to challenge assumptions through the diverse lens of communities of practice, researchers and policy development and implementation.

We anticipate structured debate sessions along the following lines:

  • Voices: Recognition and Representation through Political Settlement Processes
  • Learning from Country: Possibilities and Lessons
  • Indigenous led futures: Wellbeing on and off Country


Please be aware that some topics, forums and conversations may be sensitive and protocols to ensure cultural safety and safe and respectful interactions will be outlined and acknowledged prior to those sessions. Structured debate chambers will be designed based on conceptual issues and ideas, rather than lived experiences to maintain cultural safety within this space.

If you are interested in participating in a structured debate chamber either as a participants or audience member please indicate below, including the debate theme you are interested in. 


Structured yarning Circle

Throughout the conference there will be spaces and time created for participants to engage in facilitated structured yarning circles. The purpose of these yarning circles will be to create safe spaces to explore complex challenges and diverse narratives in relation to Country, political settlement and Indigenous futures.  

Each facilitated yarning circle will follow a structured process, creating space for each participant to share their ideas, perspectives and listen deeply to the perspectives of other participants in the circle. The process will include steps for participants to individually identity the strengths, challenges and opportunities they bring to the complexity of the issues being discussed. The process structure will enable cultural safety through honouring diversity and difference. The final step in the process will provide participants from the fields of communities of practice, research and policy the opportunity to identify several next steps in addressing the complex challenge. These steps will be collated and form part of the conference write up. 

If you are interested in addressing a particular topic or issue through a yarning circle structure, please indicated below. These will be collated and potentially form some of the structured yarning circle opportunities.  Depending on the sensitivity of the topics submitted some of these may be closed sessions for yarning circle participants only.


Poetry Policy Slam

First Nations Policy Slam: A Poetics of Power

As part of the conference and cultural festival please consider contributing a poem to a First Nations Policy Poetry Slam, or participating as an audience member. Contributors will be invited to read and enact their poetry as part of a session to engage the audience and participants in different ways of highlighting the opportunities, strengths and challenges faced in area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and relating to the three conference themes, Country, political settlement and Indigenous futures. 

Poetry contributors will be invited to submit their poetry as part of the post conference publications.

Please keep your poetry piece to three minutes in length (maximum) and consider the themes of Country, livelihoods and political settlements.


Conference registrations

Registrations for the Conferenceare open now, once the program is firming up. Meanwhile, please lock in 08 to 10 December 2021 in your diary.


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