This paper tracks the recent rise of ideology and evidence discourse as a way of describing good and bad Indigenous affairs policy. Expressing dissatisfaction with this discourse, it suggests a slightly more complex analytic way of thinking about Indigenous affairs involving three competing principles; equality, choice and guardianship. The paper suggests that dominant debates in Indigenous affairs balance these principles and move between them over time. Using a fourfold categorisation of ideological tendencies, it also suggests that different tendencies of thought about settler society and its relations with Indigenous societies occupy different positions in relation to the three competing principles. Finally, using the work of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board as an example, the paper examines the role of evidence in Indigenous affairs. Evidence, it argues, always needs to be contextualised and is always a part of arguments or debates. The role of evidence in Indigenous affairs needs to be understood in relation to the much larger issue of balancing competing principles.
Keywords: Australian Indigenous affairs, Principles in Indigenous policy, Northern Territory Emergency Response, Ideology in Indigenous affairs.