This project looked at what happens when demands for recognition of Indigenous rights meet planning systems in Canada and Australia.

  • Project dates: 2015

Planning is becoming one of the key battlegrounds for Indigenous people to negotiate meaningful articulation of their sovereign territorial and political rights, reigniting the essential tension that lies at the heart of Indigenous-settler relations. But what actually happens in the planning ‘contact zone’ – when Indigenous demands for recognition of coexisting political authority over territory intersect with environmental and urban land-use planning systems in settler-colonial states?

This project answered that question through a critical examination of planning contact zones in two settler-colonial states: Victoria, Australia and British Columbia, Canada.

Comparing the experiences of four Indigenous communities who are challenging and renegotiating land-use planning in these places, the project breaks new ground in our understanding of contemporary Indigenous land justice politics.

It is the first study to grapple with what it means for planning to engage with Indigenous peoples in major cities, and the first of its kind to compare the underlying conditions that produce very different outcomes in urban and non-urban planning contexts.

In doing so, the project exposes the costs and limits of the liberal mode of recognition as it comes to be articulated through planning, challenging the received wisdom that participation and consultation can solve conflicts of sovereignty.

The project helps to lay the theoretical, methodological and practical groundwork for imagining what planning for coexistence might look like: a relational, decolonising planning praxis where self-determining Indigenous peoples invite settler-colonial states to their planning table on their terms.

Key People

Lead researcher

Professor Libby Porter

Professor Libby Porter

Director, Centre for Urban Research

Project Researchers

  • Dr Janice Barry, Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba, Winipeg

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Research Programs

Critical Urban Governance

The Critical Urban Governance program brings together urban researchers and educators at RMIT to focus critical attention on how cities are governed, and for whom.