In 2020, a new Closing the Gap Agreement and an associated Joint Communications Strategy committed the Australian Government and state and territory governments to working with First Nations media to advance Closing the Gap aims, after lobbying by First Nations Media Australia. The new attention to First Nations media occurs after two decades of government disregard. We observe how First Nations media organisations have consistently advocated for a form of self-determination through First Nations-controlled communications, laying the groundwork for this shift. In doing so, they strategically adopt a political discourse to critique and promote reform of policy frameworks in their interests, highlighting tensions around the conceptualisation and practice of self-determination. We consider what may be required for a revised (re)adoption of self-determination as a policy to shift state-led governance, and to overcome the significant failures and limitations of policy processes.