Dr Tui Crumpen

The Institutional Context of Indigenous Affairs: A New Analysis of National Indigenous Representative Bodies in Indigenous Health and Policy

Dr Crumpen completed her PhD in 2021.


The effectiveness of national Indigenous representative bodies within the institutional environment of Indigenous affairs is of vital importance. This study examines six Indigenous representative bodies and their trajectories alongside formulating Indigenous health policy in Australia. These six Indigenous bodies are the:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC)
  • National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  • the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (PMIAC)
  • the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
  • the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), and
  • Empowered Communities.

This study comprises an institutional and thematic analysis complemented by interviews from Indigenous leaders with expertise in this field. The research sheds new light on the foundations of institutional control over Indigenous people and the emerging Indigenous voice.

This thesis is structured to achieve four outcomes. First, a historical account of the design and structure of six Indigenous representative bodies functioning on a national scale. Second, an analysis of the institutional environment in which these six Indigenous representative bodies functioned or function. Third, an analysis of the barriers and effectiveness of these bodies in enabling Indigenous people to have input into policy and its planning processes. Fourth, an analysis of Indigenous innovation and the future-oriented thought emerging from the national representative and leadership space.

It is argued that the position of Indigenous people is not that of passive bystander. Despite many obstacles, Indigenous people have found ways to have their voices heard and lobbied for some important changes to the fabric of Australian society. The transformation of Indigenous people from powerless to political citizens in Australian politics through these bodies is clearly demonstrated. This new analysis addresses the future of national Indigenous representation in Australia and the Indigenous fight for better health. The findings indicate that a leading national Indigenous representative body is needed if Australia is to close the gap on Indigenous health disadvantage. The core characteristics that were effective for each body are proposed.



Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Read the thesis