• Bob Hawke in 1990: Declassified papers tell of the real story behind his 1988 treaty plans.
It was nearly 30 years ago that Prime Minister Bob Hawke said he would pursue a treaty between Australia and the First Nations peoples. But, it never eventuated.
Myles Morgan

4 Jan 2016 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 4 Jan 2016 - 3:45 PM

The Hawke Government's 1991 cabinet documents show it was serious about reconciliation, but newly declassified documents tell of how Prime Minister Hawke dropped the treaty idea after a few years.

Every year on January 1, the National Archives releases key cabinet papers, this year the focus was 1990 and 1991.

In planning to set up the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the government wrote it was dedicated to improving every aspect of Aboriginal peoples' lives.

But, in a declassified letter to then Opposition Leader John Hewson, Prime Minister Hawke said he didn't intend for reconciliation to lead to a treaty.

He said he wasn't "wedded" to the idea and reconciliation was the priority.

It's a contrast to 1988 - when he said a treaty would be negotiated.

The Hawke Government was also debating its response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

The Aboriginal Affairs Minister wanted to spend "at least 300 million dollars" on a five year response to implementing the commission's recommendations.

But, the Government decided in late 1991 that just over six million dollars was enough in the short-term.