This paper addresses attempts to achieve participation in governance by Australia’s indigenous people, a group which has, for much of the last 200 years, been deliberately and systematically excluded from involvement in political and administrative decision-making by the Australian state. This context of exclusion is critical in understanding the particular problems and issues which arise in relation to indigenous participation in governance, and it is a context which is fundamentally different from that which shapes the possibilities for participation faced by most groups in developed countries. Substantial attention is devoted in the early sections of the paper to exploring the reasons for indigenous exclusion and the mechanisms used to give effect to it.