The MSB is delighted to announce its endorsement of the research report, Gathering food for thought: First Nations peoples' approaches to peacebuilding and peacemaking in Australia.

This report is the result of an extensive initial project involving collating and reviewing historical and contemporary materials relating to Australia’s First Nations peoples’ diverse approaches to conflict and its management, as well as mainstream reporting of those approaches.

In 2022, this project was awarded the Mediator Standards Board Annual Research Grant, and has also received support from the University of Newcastle.

Although the report is limited (it is the first stage in a much larger research undertaking), the overall Project is designed to inform the Mediator Standards Board in its continued development and evolution of accredited mediator training and standards of practice.

Prepared by Dr Helen Bishop (a First Nations woman, and lead researcher), Professor Tania Sourdin, and the Research Team which is based at the University of Newcastle, this is the first time such a collection has been systematically reviewed and analysed (to the MSB’s knowledge, and that of the Research Team).

The design of the research project arose from an identified need to acknowledge First Nations peoples’ approaches to conflict, and their age-old systems, processes, techniques and skills, and to explore ways in which they might be recognised within existing Australian dispute resolution frameworks and standards.

Key Findings: A key finding included in the report is that there is a notable lack of inclusion of First Nations researchers in studies of matters that affect First Nations peoples. This has led to research outcomes that have been defined by mainstream preferences, rather than reflecting First Nations viewpoints and ideas.

Limited First Nations peoples’ primary engagement was also noted in commissions of enquiry, as well as in the design, delivery, and evaluation of a range of community-based dispute resolution programs and services.

“Among many insights from the research, it was clear that there is incredible variety, depth and ways to talk in the First Nations experience of conflict management.

We have to ensure that our dispute resolution accreditation and ‘alternative pathways’ to accreditation are flexible enough and appropriate for access to First Nations peacemaking and peacebuilding practitioners” said Dr Peter Condliffe, Chairman of the Mediator Standards Board.

The report includes twelve key areas of research in which “Next Steps” are suggested, such as:

  • The need for research materials to be accessible to non-researchers, and be presented in plain English
  • The importance of engaging First Nations peoples in the design, delivery, and analysis of research studies
  • The need for appropriate recognition and responsiveness to cultural sensitivities in this area (the Research Team developed their own “Cultural Responsiveness Statement” which is included in the report)
  • The need for further exploration of the influence of Elders and other community leaders in the safeguarding of social cohesion and the management of conflict in a community context
  • The need for further exploration of the extraordinary diversity of First Nations peoples’ approaches to peacebuilding and peacemaking, including the influence of complex social relationships such as kinship groups
  • The importance of using culturally appropriate methods for measuring the “effectiveness” of First Nations practitioners and their approaches, including incorporating community viewpoints and ideas in such measures
  • The need for government-funded conflict management programs and services to more fully engage First Nations communities in the design, delivery and evaluation of such programs and services, ensuring that mainstream preferences do not dominate in these areas
  • The importance of establishing culturally appropriate protections of the intellectual property relating to historical and contemporary First Nations materials

“The Project has also exposed the limited scope of existing conventional intellectual property protections,” said Research Team member, Professor Tania Sourdin.

“These may not be appropriate to a culture whose sense of ownership and custodianship is so different from the legalities of mainstream approaches. In the Report we’ve flagged this as an issue that remains unresolved.”

The MSB is pleased to have supported the project and sees the release of this report as a significant milestone in understanding the ways in which First Nations peoples approach and manage conflict.

"The Gathering Food for Thought Report is profoundly significant,” said Dr Bishop.

“It unveils both ancient and contemporary knowledge and practices essential to First Nations peoples' coexistence, governance, and social systems…”

During 2022 and 2023, the Research Team as well as an Advisory Group - the latter with a majority of First Nations members - reviewed and analysed key selected materials from the online collection, including historical anthropological reports, reports from Royal Commissions, case studies, journal articles, books, and other publications.

The Team also explored the pivotal role of language in maintaining and safeguarding culture, and the links between wellbeing and cultural connection.

There is very limited professional recognition and effective professional support for First Nations peacebuilders and peacemakers reflecting a broader lack of sensitivity to and recognition of their culturally diverse and specific practices and skills. In its report, the Project Research Team has also called for more inclusive approaches to research in this area, promoting the engagement of First Nations researchers in the design and delivery of all future studies.

“I eagerly await the involvement and insights of my fellow First Nations researchers into future studies of First Nations peacebuilding and peacemaking approaches, needs, and resources. I want to thank the Research team, the MSB and the University of Newcastle for their commitment to this landmark work." said Dr Bishop.

It is expected that this unique project will result in an invaluable knowledge base to inform ongoing and future research in this area, as well as making a significant contribution to the scope and design of programmes, standards and frameworks relating to First Nations peoples’ peacebuilding and peacemaking systems, processes, techniques, and skills, both in Australia, and elsewhere.

MORE INFO The comprehensive report can be downloaded at It is divided into five parts as follows:

  • Part One – Introductory matters
  • Part Two – Terminology, language, and conceptual framework
  • Part Three – First Nations peoples’ approaches to peacebuilding and peacemaking
  • Part Four – Selected thematic analysis and targeted review of case studies
  • Part Five – Next Steps


About MSB The Mediator Standards Board is responsible for the ongoing development and maintenance of the National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS). Website>

Media Queries For further information or comment MSB National Chairperson & MSB Research Subcommittee Chair, Dr Peter Condliffe and Professor Tania Sourdin of the University of Newcastle are available for comment.

– contact Jenny Watson for enquires. [email protected] or 03 9005 1903

Release date: 24 May, 2024