Dr Alison Vivian is a lawyer and Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning (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.
Alison’s primary research focus relates to Indigenous nation-building and governance as an exercise of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. As a Fulbright scholar, she obtained a LLM degree and subsequent SJD from the Indigenous Peoples’ Law and Policy program, James E Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, where she studied principles of Indigenous nation building emerging from the research of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) and Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management & Policy (NNI). These principles strongly resonate with earlier Australian research findings and underpin her current research, conducted in collaboration with the Harvard Project and NNI.
2014: Vine Deloria Scholar Award – awarded on an occasional basis by the University of Arizona warranted by the combination of an SJD student’s academic work and dissertation. Awarded on this occasion for connecting community members, governments and scholars in the United States and Australia.
2011: Allen Austin Bartholomew Award – awarded annually for the best article published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
2003: Fulbright Scholarship to undertake a LLM at the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, James E Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.
Can supervise: YES
ARC Linkage: Indigenous nationhood in the absence of recognition: Self-governance strategies and insights from three Aboriginal communities
Based on evidence that effective governance is a necessary precursor to positive economic, social and cultural outcomes, this project aims to strengthen Australian Indigenous communities by learning and sharing lessons about sustainable and effective Indigenous governance. In collaboration with three Aboriginal communities (the Gunditjmara People in Victoria, Ngarrindjeri Nation in South Australia and Wiradjuri Nation in NSW), and with six other universities (University of Arizona, University of Melbourne, Flinders University, Charles Sturt University, RMIT and ANU), the project will identify innovation in community governance, test the usefulness of Australian governance assessment tools, and foster Indigenous networks to share successful strategies. In doing so, the project contributes to an emerging theory of Indigenous nation building. This project is yet to commence.
Melbourne School of Government Research Cluster: Indigenous Nation Building Project
The Linkage project research partners have also agreed to form a collaboration funded by the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne.
ARC Discovery: Changing the Conversation: Reclaiming Indigenous government
This project questioned whether Indigenous nations in Australia were undertaking the task of comprehensive political governance and if so, whether nation building principles identified in US research are being applied in Australia; how these principles might provide a basis for understanding and building upon current assertions of self-determination, and how they might provide a framework for strategic planning for future growth. The research team worked with the representative bodies of two Aboriginal nations – the Gunditjmara People and Ngarrindjeri Nation, which demonstrate outstanding governing initiatives, strategic innovation and capacity.
ARC Linkage: Factors impacting on rates of crime in six Aboriginal communities
This project sought to identify factors – positive and negative that impact on rates of crime in six Aboriginal communities in NSW (Wilcannia/Menindee; Bourke/Lightning Ridge, and Kempsey/Gunnedah). Relevantly this qualitative research points to a perceived correlation between self-reliance/self-determination and Aboriginal communities with low crime rates. Professor Larissa Behrendt, Amanda Porter and Alison are currently writing a book that analyses their findings.
Vivian, A, Porter, A & Behrendt, L 2016, 'Reflections on the Rates of Crime Project', Ngiya: Talk the Law, vol. 5, no. special edition on Indigenous methodologies and research.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Notwithstanding governments' assertions to thc contrary, the gap between the evidence of what provides sustainable economic, social and cultural outcomes for Aboriginal and Torrcs Strait Islander peoples', and government policies appears to be widening. Consecutive Australian Governmcnts have stated and continue to argue that they arc committcd to an evidencc-based approach to developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy. They claim to have rejected ideological based policy in order to 'look to the cvidence of what works and what does not work' to 'what is successful in overcoming indigenous disadvantage" Howcvcr, rarely does any government idcntifY the evidence that provides the basis for policy. This paper seeks to identifY the principles - emerging from thc evidence - that should frame Indigenous policy.
Vivian, A.M. 2010, 'Some human rights are worth more than others: The Northern Territory Intervention and the Alice Springs Town Camps', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 13-17.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Australia's legally binding obligations at international law to respect, protect and reinvigorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' cultural rights are unambiguously stated in numerous instruments. These include the United Nations' International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination CRace Convention'), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In particular, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination CCERD'), which monitors compliance with the Race Convention, has identified specific obligations of State parties, including Australia, as they apply to Indigenous peoples in General Recommendation 23, although Australia disputes that such obligations are binding
McCausland, R & Vivian, AM 2010, 'Why Do Some Aboriginal Communities Have Lower Crime Rates Than Others? A Pilot Study', The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Crimino..., vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 301-332.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Crime data collated by the New South Wales (NSW) Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) indicates that there is considerable variation in rates of Indigenous1 offending from one area to another in NSW, including in areas that are comparable in terms of Indigenous population. However, despite research findings that raise the importance of community context in relation to the offending of Indigenous individuals, there has been little investigation of the relationship between the dynamics of Indigenous communities and crime rates. In particular, there is a dearth of research that seeks to better understand the factors that may render Indigenous communities less prone to crime. This article outlines the findings of a pilot study undertaken by a research team from Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney, with support from BOCSAR. The pilot study sought to better understand the factors that contribute to variations in rates of Indigenous offending by conducting qualitative research in two communities with significant Aboriginal populations â Wilcannia and Menindee â that are demographically and geographically comparable but with contrasting crime rates.
The extensive consultation process (Redesign Consultation process) with Aboriginal people initiated by the Australian Federal Government in 2009 in order to discuss the provisions of the unpopular and allegedly racially discriminatory Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) and identify them as special measures is considered severely inadequate. It is suggested that the NTER Redesign Consultation process has not involved the affected Indigenous communities in its design and implementation and hence would only be a formal gesture rather than a genuine intention to help the affected people.
McCausland, R. & Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'A Tale Of Two Towns: A Comparative Study Of Wilcannia And Menindee', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, no. 13, pp. 7-11.
Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'Conflict management in the native title system: A proposal for an Indigenous Dispute Resolution Tribunal', Reform, vol. Autumn2009, no. 93, pp. 33-36.
Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'The Social Effects of Native Title: Recognition, Translation, Coexistence', Journal of Indigenous Policy, vol. 10, pp. 121-123.
Vivian, A.M. & Schokman, B. 2007, 'The Northern Territory Interventionand the Fabrication of 'Special Measures'', Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 78-106.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The provisions of the controversial Northern Territory Emergency Response (commonly called the 'Northern Territory Intervention') were and remain targeted directly at prescribed Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. In order to avoid any potential conflict with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) ('RDA') - which is the instrument that enacts Australia's obligations under the Conaention on the Elimination of AII Fonns of Racial Discriminationl 1'RaceC onaention')- the Coalition Australian Government at the time ('former Government') excluded the RD,4's application to the Intervention.2 Curiously, the former Government went further and adopted the device of declaring that all measures constituting the Northern Territory Intervention were 'special measures'for the purposes of the RD4.3 Each of the three substantive legislafive instruments that constifute the Northern Territory Intervention includes a provision to that effect.
Behrendt, L, Porter, AJ & Vivian, A 2016, 'Factors Affecting Crime Rates in Six Rural Indigenous Communities' in Donnermeyer, JF (ed), The Routledge International Handbook of Rural Criminology, Routledge, UK, pp. 33-44.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The dramatic, and increasing, overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in all stages of the criminal justice system is a national crisis and mandates that crime and Indigenous communities is properly a subject for intense focus and debate. Despite the extensive findings and recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (Johnston 1991), Indigenous incarceration rates continue to rise—both nationally and across the states and territories, for both adult and juvenile detention populations. During the last 15 years, the imprisonment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults increased by 57.4 per cent, so that Indigenous adults are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people (Productivity Commission 2014). Indigenous youth are 26 times more likely to be in detention (Amnesty International 2015).
Many criminological theories as to causes of Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice system have been posited. In particular, it has been suggested that social disorganisation theory and conflict theory are relevant to understanding crime places-based variations in crime rates variations. Hence, both can be applied to rural and remote communities, and to Indigenous communities in terms of the breakdown of Indigenous informal social controls as a result of colonisation and dispossession. However, appraisals of these theories in rural Australia have demonstrated that, while combinations of some elements might be illuminating, no one theory was able to fully capture the complexity of 'crime' as a localised phenomenon at a community level (Hunter 1993, Jobes, Donnermeyer and Barclay 2005, and McCausland and Vivian 2010).
There is growing recognition of the Eurocentric focus in criminological studies and the importance in moving towards a post-colonial criminology (Cunneen 2011; Cunneen and Rowe 2014). Indeed, the foundations of criminology lie in the writings of Enlightenment scholars such as Cesar...
Vivian, A.M. 2010, 'Evidence? What evidence? Policy development and the Northern Territory Intervention', Financial & Consumer Rights Council 2010 Annual Conference, San Remo.
Vivian, A.M. 2010, 'Wilcannia-Menindee; Bourke-Lightning Ridge: Different Worlds. Lessons for understanding crime in four NSW Aboriginal communities', National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2010, Brisbane.
Vivian, A.M. 2010, 'Evidence Based Policy? Ideological, wilfully blind or addressing another constituency?', Pathfinders 2010: The Innovators Conference, Alice Springs.
The international and Australian evidence as to what underpins economic, social and cultural prosperity in Indigenous communities is remarkably consistent. Simply put, âsuccessâ arises when Indigenous communities exercise genuine decision-making control over their internal affairs and utilisation of resources, buttressed by capable institutions of governance. Institutions are effective when regarded as legitimate by the people that they purport to serve, where process is fundamental to legitimacy. Why is it then that governments continue to prefer policy of blanket application that undermines Indigenous capacity and authority, rather than bolsters it? Perhaps the most starting contemporary disconnect between evidence and practice is the Northern Territory Intervention, which, as the disconnect becomes more transparent, leads us to wonder, âWhat will be the final cost?â
Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'The Northern Territory Intervention: Request for Urgent Action', UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Conference, Brisbane.
Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'Wilcannia-Menindee: Different Worlds. Lessons for understanding crime in two NSW Aboriginal communities', NSW Aboriginal Legal Service Annual Conference, Sydney.
Vivian, A.M. 2009, 'Evaluation and Monitoring of Indigenous Courts', AIJA Indigenous Courts Conference, Rockhampton.
Vivian, A.M., Schnierer, E.M., Behrendt, L.Y. & Gibson, P. Senate Community Affairs Committee 2010, Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Bill 2009 and the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous, pp. 1-34, Canberra.
Behrendt, L.Y. & Vivian, A.M. State of Victoria 2010, Indigenous self-determination and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities - a framework for discussion, pp. 1-32, Melbourne, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) requires the Attorney-General to undertake a review of its first four years of operation and a report based on the review must then be tabled in parliament in October 2011. One of the specific issues that the review must address is whether the right to self-determination should be enshrined in the Charter
Nicholson, A., Behrendt, L.Y., Vivian, A.M., Watson, N. & Harris, M. Concerned Australians 2009, Will They Be Heard? A response to the NTER Consultations, June to August 2009, pp. 1-45, Melbourne, Australia.
This Report has its genesis in the great work done by the group known as `concerned Australians in conjunction with the relevant Aboriginal Communities in the Northern Territory and in the tireless enthusiasm of Michele Harris, who is one of the co-authors of this Report. We are particularly fortunate to have the involvement of the other co-authors Larissa Behrendt and Nicole Watson, both of whom are Aboriginal and Alison Vivian, who bring their own particular knowledge and appreciation of the problems discussed.
Vivian, A.M. House Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs 2008, Submission to the Inquiry into Developing Indigenous Enterprises undertaken by the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, pp. 1-7, Canberra, Australia.
Longman, CD, Behrendt, L & Vivian, A 2015, 'Submission to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs regarding the Native Title Amendment (Reform) Bill No. 1, 2012.'.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Successive governments have insisted, and continue to insist, that they have rejected ideologically-based policy with regard to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Instead they claim that they are in favor of evidence-based policy, looking to 'evidence of what works' and 'what is successful in overcoming Indigenous disadvantage'.
How then to evaluate these claims? Is it possible to reconcile these claims of evidence-based policy with the government's failure to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Or would policy based on evidence look different to the last decade of government action?
Longman, CD, Watson, N, Nicholson, A, Vivian, A, Priest, T, De Santolo, J, Gibson, P, Behrendt, L & Cox, E 2012, 'Listening But Not Hearing: A Response to the NTER Stronger Futures Consultations June to August 2011.'.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
A report compiled between researchers at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning evaluating the Stronger Futures consultation process against Australia's obligations under international law to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in relation to decisions that affect them.
The Report includes a 'Report Card' providing an overview of the efficacy of the consultation process.
Dr Vivian has partnerships established through ongoing ARC funded research projects exploring principles of Indigenous nation building in Australia with the following institutions:
- Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
- Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority
- Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management & Policy, University of Arizona
- Yunggorendi First Nations Centre for Higher Education and Research, Flinders University
- Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne
- Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne
- Charles Sturt University
- Australian National University