Nation Building with Alison Vivian

Dr Alison Vivian is a lawyer and Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research (Research Unit) at UTS. She has practised law in the areas of native title; refugee and humanitarian law and international human rights law, and has taught international human rights law. Since joining Jumbunna Research her main research has been with working on Nation Building with communities on their frameworks and the importance of building and strengthening communities. We caught up recently with Alison to learn more about Nation Building and the role the research has played in helping to support community.

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Nation Building Course held in Sydney 2017

Podcast with Alison Vivian

Transcript of Podcast with Alison Vivian

I am Alison Vivian I am a researcher here at Jumbunna. I started here almost 10 years ago and I had been working at the federal court in native title so I guess when I first came I was interested in looking at some of the stuff that I had been doing in Native Title.

I first encountered nation building myself when I was a student at the university of Arizona. I came across this subject call Indigenous Nation Building and walked in the door and listened to what Manley Begay had to say and I thought, that is what I see at home. I know that there are nations at home and I know that they are sovereign nations exercising rights to self-determination and that is what he is talking about. So, I actually did a complete about face and haven’t been a conventional lawyer since.

I had known a bit about the Gunditjmara people because I was working at the federal court when they got their consent determination Gunditjmara people and Narrendgeri nation we had the great fortune that they agreed to partner with us.

They would come prepared with a united and collective starts and just in the way that you know that some of the things with the way they organised the consent determination and the way they organised themselves collectively made me think that they would be very interesting in terms of the research.

We talk about this new research,  nation building as new. Whereas in fact there is not a single thing that is new about it. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations like nations internationally have been organising themselves to determine their own futures forever. That is effectively what nation building is.

A common thread is that they have had enough, that they are seeking ways to remove themselves from government control that you know decade and decades of promises and talk of a new relationship is just not appropriate and I think the other thing is to, there is also, this recognition that nations can’t afford to be tied to short election cycles because it has the impact on their very existence. There kind of 7 generation planning that we hear about a lot means that they are looking for other ways of doing things.

So, it is the community that defines the boundaries of the collective. As I say, we have worked with collectives that identify themselves a nation and have an identity that extends back well before invasion, back before invasion by millennia. So it is their collective identity and the second thing is and this really comes out in the us research is that the governing arrangement that they are developing are those governing arrangement that suite the community, that suite the norms, the values, we refer to it as cultural legitimacy, that they actually suite that particular nation and they embody what the nation would consider proper in the ways that decisions are made and decisions are implemented .Whereas general corporate governance is about managing organisations.

There is lot of misunderstanding about governing in Australia because governance gets used so widely and because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collectives aren’t recognised as being a legal personality or a distinct existence as of right then we see collectives that in order to interact with the outside world do that through organisations. We find then there can be a real confusion about community organisation and community. So, our work is focused at that community level.