© 2015 Tsou et al.; licensee BioMed Central. Background: The need for better partnerships between Aboriginal organisations and mainstream agencies demands attention on process and relational elements of these partnerships, and improving partnership functioning through transformative or iterative evaluation procedures. This paper presents the findings of a literature review which examines the usefulness of existing partnership tools to the Australian Aboriginal-mainstream partnership (AMP) context. Methods: Three sets of best practice principles for successful AMP were selected based on authors' knowledge and experience. Items in each set of principles were separated into process and relational elements and used to guide the analysis of partnership assessment tools. The review and analysis of partnership assessment tools were conducted in three distinct but related parts. Part 1- identify and select reviews of partnership tools; part 2 - identify and select partnership self-assessment tool; part 3 - analysis of selected tools using AMP principles. Results: The focus on relational and process elements in the partnership tools reviewed is consistent with the focus of Australian AMP principles by reconciliation advocates; however, historical context, lived experience, cultural context and approaches of Australian Aboriginal people represent key deficiencies in the tools reviewed. The overall assessment indicated that the New York Partnership Self-Assessment Tool and the VicHealth Partnership Analysis Tools reflect the greatest number of AMP principles followed by the Nuffield Partnership Assessment Tool. The New York PSAT has the strongest alignment with the relational elements while VicHealth and Nuffield tools showed greatest alignment with the process elements in the chosen AMP principles. Conclusions: Partnership tools offer opportunities for providing evidence based support to partnership development. The multiplicity of tools in existence and the reported uniqueness of each partnership, mean the development of a generic partnership analysis for AMP may not be a viable option for future effort.