A variety of literature has been examined for ideas and examples of what has worked, or what has not worked in the arena of pathways to employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas. What works and what does not in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment pathways cannot be understood mechanistically, outside of the context that inhibits or promotes success. Prospects of success are strongly conditioned by context: social, cultural, political and economic. This paper also describes some of the research gaps and issues relating to employment pathways for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Future research priorities are suggested. Principles and practices required for success in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment outcomes are identified, and recent employment pathway developments are described. In the remote environment, employment success for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been elusive. Recent commitments by governments, corporations and non-government service providers appear to have resulted in a significant increase (from an extremely low base) in employment pathway options for some remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The analysis presented here is not a list of examples of the notion of ‘what works’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment initiatives. Particularly in remote contexts, what works has been overshadowed by what does not work. There are various reasons why ideas, plans or intentions do not work. It is important to understand them, if we are going to escape from the vicious circles of ‘doing what we have always done’ and expecting different results. Reviewing obstacles to success provides empirical grounds for practice and experiment. Past, present and potential future obstacles provide the material background to strategic and theoretical problems that need to be solved if progress is to be sustained. The focus of the review is very much on the Northern Territory, but observations from other jurisdictions are noted where appropriate. The paper attempts to cover issues that will require strategic policy research to make a difference to future activities aimed at increasing remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment. It is about the issues we must come to terms with – and frequently attempt to resolve – when selecting questions for research, and when making research design choices.