As Australia heads towards a new national Indigenous representative body, a UNSW academic will use her Churchill Fellowship to study different models of Indigenous representation in North America.

Dr Sarah Maddison, the Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, will travel to the US and Canada next year to examine the successful Indigenous representation in those countries.

Australia has not had a national Indigenous representative body since the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 2004.

"In Australia we are about to embark on our fourth attempt at a national Indigenous body. Attempts so far have not been sustained and that's added to the marginalisation of Indigenous people," said Dr Maddison, who is the Acting Deputy Director of the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Unit.

Dr Maddison is looking at the methods of choosing representation, conflict resolution and the structure of the National Congress of American Indians and Canada's Assembly of First Nations.

"My hunch is that the reasons that these bodies have worked is because they are independent from government," she said.

"The question for Australia is: can we create a national body that has the support of government, but that government will keep its hands off?"

Dr Maddison is one of 29 people to be awarded Fellowships in NSW. The Fellowships are valued at $25,000 each.

The Churchill Trust, which provides the annual Fellowships, was established as one of war-time British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill's last requests.

Contact: Susi Hamilton, UNSW media unit, 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024.