What is the ATNS Project?


The Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements with Indigenous Peoples in Settler States: their role and relevance for Indigenous and other Australians began in March 2002, as an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project. The original aim of the project was to examine treaty and agreement-making with indigenous Australians and the nature of the cultural, social and legal rights encompassed by past, present and potential agreements and treaties. The project involved an examination of the legal history and foundations of agreements and treaties, an audit of current agreements, their purposes, status and outcomes, and international comparative research on treaty and agreement-making.


Major initiatives of the 2002 project included the creation of the Agreements Treaties and Negotiating Settlements (ATNS) database and the publication of Honour Among Nations? Treaties and Agreements with Indigenous People: an edited collection of international papers which examine wide ranging issues affecting indigenous peoples, including sovereignty, treaty- and agreement-making, land rights, and self determination.

The 2002 project involved researchers from The University of Melbourne (Prof Marcia Langton, Assoc Prof Maureen Tehan, Dr Lisa Palmer, Kathryn Shain and Odette Mazel) and from the University of Technology Sydney (Prof Larissa Behrendt). Our industry partner was ATSIC. The project was also supported by AIATSIS, the National Native Title Tribunal, the Minerals Council of Australia and Rio Tinto Pty Ltd.



In 2005, the above research team from the University of Melbourne, as well as Assoc Prof Lee Godden (University of Melbourne) and Dr Lisa Strelein (AIATSIS), were awarded another ARC Linkage Project, The Implementation of Agreements and Treaties with Indigenous and Local Peoples in Postcolonial States. Industry Partners were the Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination and Rio Tinto Pty Ltd. This project built on the work done in the previous project by explicitly examining the process of implementation and the wider factors that promote long-term sustainability of agreement outcomes. This project examined the special legal, governance, economic development, land/heritage, and environmental management issues that arise in the interface between indigenous societies, governments and corporations in an agreement context and will focus on the role of implementation in the creation of robust local and regional economies with the consequent benefits for indigenous and local communities.

In addition to continuing to build on the ATNS database, a collection of case studies was published in 2006 entitled Settling with Indigenous Peoples: Modern Treaty and Agreement-Making. Based on contemporary research, the book provides readers with location specific insights into the ways in which modern agreement-making is impacting on indigenous people's social, economic and political situation in a range of jurisdictions and contexts. The project also produced a special edition of the international Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law ((2008) 26 (1)), framed by a scholarly introduction by the Chief Investigators.



In 2010 a new ARC Linkage Project commenced entitled Poverty in the Midst of Plenty: Economic Empowerment, Wealth Creation and Institutional Reform for Sustainable Indigenous and Local Communities. The research team includes Professor Marcia Langton, Professor Miranda Stewart, Associate Professor Maureen Tehan, Professor Lee Godden from the University of Melbourne; Professor Ciaran O'Faircheallaigh from Griffith University, Professor John Taylor from ANU and Dr Lisa Strelein from AIATSIS. The industry partners for the new project are the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), Rio Tinto Ltd, Woodside Energy Ltd, Santos Ltd and Marnda Mia Central Negotiating Committee Pty Ltd. The new project aims to study the institutional, legal and policy reforms required to reduce indigenous people's poverty and to promote economic development for sustainable indigenous communities. The interdisciplinary research will draw on anthropology, geography, demography, law and public policy and continue to focus on comparative case studies. The project will analyse the impacts of large-scale resources projects, and government policy and services, on local communities. The object is to identify solutions for realizing sustainable social and economic development for indigenous people based on social, policy, fiscal, procedural and legal models.