Conflicts of views between people and complaints about how things are done are common to every society and organisation.


However, if tensions and differences of opinions are left unresolved for too long, they can turn into irreconcilable disputes that poison the air and destroy people’s ability to work and live together.


Most societies have ways to protect peace and order, impose sanctions and punishment, deal with complaints by citizens, and mediate disputes.


Doing this well and fairly is a fundamental part of effective governance.


However, there can be major differences across cultures about what people consider to be ‘fair’ and the ‘right ways’ of settling conflict and restoring harmony.


This is the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and their organisations that have to operate under and negotiate between two very different cultural ways of dealing with disputes and grievances.

Indigenous Governance Toolkit

Our Toolkit is a free online resource developed to support Indigenous communities and organisations to strengthen their governance practices. It offers a comprehensive collection of practical information, tools, templates, case studies and videos.


8.0 Disputes and complaints


8.1 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous approaches


8.2 Core principles and skills for dispute and complaint resolution


8.3 Disputes and complaints about governance


8.4 Your members: Dealing with disputes and complaints


8.5 Organisations: dealing with internal disputes and complaints


8.6 Practical guidelines and approaches


8.7 Case Studies

Other resources


Dispute – to argue against or call into question the truth, validity or appropriateness of an action or decision. A dispute can be between two people or a number of people. Dispute resolution is the procedure by which a group of people (or individuals) consider, assess and resolve, where possible, disputes or complaints.


Grievance – a wrong considered as grounds for complaint, or something believed to cause distress or resentment—such as an unjust or unfair act—by an individual, group or by an organisation as a whole.


See our Glossary for more definitions of governance-related terminology.

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