In recent years, the requirement for First Nations participation through co-design has emerged as a key prerequisite of policy legitimacy in the Indigenous policy domain. In this discussion paper, the mainstream literature on co-design and collaborative governance is surveyed and considered, as a means of identifying the essential characteristics of effective co-design policy and program processes. The literature survey identifies two strands: one that asserts the merits and opportunities inherent in policy and program co-design, and a second that highlights the risks and challenges. Two nationally significant current and ongoing Indigenous policy development processes that have been described as co-design processes are then analysed and assessed. The paper concludes that co-design involves more than consultation, and ideally requires shared decision-making. Further, in relation to policy co-design processes, the literature and cases studies suggest the core design features that are required to ensure the processes contribute to creating public value and maintaining trust in democratic public policy institutions.