Abstract: The Australian government privileges the rights of individuals and is wary of the international legal category of “Indigenous peoples” and its possible repercussions at the national level. Indeed, this category confers on the peoples claiming it the status of legal personalities and grants them collective rights which are the responsibility of States. The Australian State notably perceives the right to self-determination as likely to open the way to independence movements and refuses any idea of a treaty. In this context, to settle their native title claims and assert their place in the mainstream Australian society, the Noongars of the South West of Western Australia stand aside, in their majority, from the international discourses on Indigeneity and claims to a treaty. Instead, they have negotiated a comprehensive settlement with the State of Western Australia which is a treaty that dares not say its name. This article aims at demonstrating that it is precisely because they avoided the term “treaty” that the Noongars have been successful in securing a settlement of such a scope. It shows that the Noongars have instead resorted to the political concept of a Noongar nation—an alter/native space within the Australian nation articulating the principle of internal sovereignty—to reframe their relationship with the Australian State. This strategy is not a guarantee of unity but, despite internal oppositions, they have fashioned a Noongar identity according to the general criteria that characterise the category of “Indigenous peoples” and claim the same rights it accords.

Keywords: Australia (south-west); Australian Aborigines (Noongars); Indigeneity; Nation; State relations; Treaty;