To govern effectively, a nation, community or organisation needs rules and policies.


Today, many Indigenous organisations are developing their own governance rules in order to meet the many challenges they face – and that not only reflect Indigenous cultural principles and values, but are practically effective too.


This topic gives you an introduction to governance rules and policies – what they are and why they are important; where cultural values and laws fit; the particular rules for running meetings; and how policies are made and enforced within organisations.

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.


6.0 Governance rules and policies


6.1 What are governance rules?


6.2 Governance rules and culture


6.3 Running effective meetings


6.4 Policies for organisations


6.5 Case Studies

Other resources


Rules – the standards, authoritative statements and requirements to which members of a group or organisation should subscribe and conform to. They may be underwritten by peoples’ informal collective cultural values and beliefs. They may be the formal legal rules of operation adopted and set out in a constitution, policy, procedures or guidelines. They tell us how people should behave towards each other, work together, communicate and make decisions, and what to do when things go wrong.


Governance rules set out the framework and ‘ground rules’ for:


  • who has the authority to make decisions, and about what
  • how decisions should be made
  • who can talk on behalf of others
  • what obligations there are between leaders and their members.


Policy – a kind of rule or guideline for action developed by a nation, government, organisation or group to guide its decisions, behaviour and collective action to achieve desired outcomes and goals. Policies may determine may be determine governance, political, management, financial, economic, cultural and administrative actions.


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

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