There has been limited research into the scope or standards of specialist palliative care nursing practice in an Australian context. This study sought to develop a competency framework that described the core domains of specialist palliative care nursing. This article explores one key domain of specialist palliative care nursing practice - therapeutic relationships - that was identified as underpinning other domains of practice. A mixed method was used, involving a literature review, a survey including practice exemplars and an interview of specialist palliative care nurses. Seventy-four registered nurses working in designated specialist palliative care nursing roles from each Australian state and mainland territory were involved. The nurses represented metropolitan, regional, rural and remote communities, various inpatient facilities and community practice settings. Five core domains of specialist palliative care nursing practice were identified: complex supportive care, collaborative practice, leadership, improving practice and therapeutic relationships. Therapeutic relationships were identified as the central domain of specialist palliative care nursing practice to which all other domains were inextricably linked.