Helen Gerrard, MG Corporation Board Director (2012), explains how MG Corporation is governed She talks about how it’s changed over time and how it represents different groups through the Dawang Council “Wi...
- 01 Understanding governance
- 02 Culture and governance
- 03 Getting Started
- 04 Leadership
05 Governing the organisation
- 5.0 Governing the organisation
- 5.1 Roles, responsibilities and rights of a governing body
- 5.2 Accountability: what is it, to whom and how?
- 5.3 Decision making by the governing body
- 5.4 Governing finances and resources
- 5.5 Communicating
- 5.6 Future planning
- 5.7 Building capacity and confidence for governing bodies
- 5.8 Case Studies
- 06 Rules and policies
- 07 Management and staff
08 Disputes and complaints
- 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
- 09 Governance for nation rebuilding
- Governance Stories
- Useful links
- Preview new Toolkit
3.2 Mapping your community for governance
“How can we know where we are headed if we don’t know where we have come from?”
(Leah Armstrong, ‘Finding Australia’s soul: rebuilding our Indigenous communities’, The Circle, NSW)
The governance history of your people plays a major role in determining your current arrangements and your strengths and challenges.
Working through these histories together can help you to understand present issues, and to be clear about the cultural elements from your past ways of governing that you value and want to protect and strengthen.
NPY Women’s Council chair Yanyi Bandicha and Co-ordinator Andrea Mason talk about how NPY got started and how the organisation works as a service delivery and advocacy organisation.
3.2.1 Back to basics: your governance history
Working together to answer the following five questions should help you understand who you are as a group and what kind of governance you want to hand on to your children.
- Who are we?
- What have we got?
- Where did we come from?
- What do we want?
- How do we get it?
1. Who are we? Who is the ‘self’ in our governance?
When you’re trying to work out what your governance strengths and challenges are, one of the best places to start is with is your own people. That means considering questions such as:
- Who are we?
- Who are members of our group?
- What are our important relationships?
- Who are our strong leaders?
- Who are we accountable to?
- Who participates in your governance?
These questions are all about identifying which nation, tribe, community, region or group you are part of, and who you are representing through your governance.
Getting some agreement or resolution about these questions is a fundamental step, right from the start.
2. Where did we come from? What’s the history of our governance?
This question is about looking back at the history of your governance and thinking about the following questions:
- What are the cultural foundations of our governance?
- How did it work in the past? How did we make decisions and work together to get things done? What kinds of rules and laws did we have? What were our leaders like and how did we settle disputes?
- What things do we really value about our past way of governing?
- What good and bad things have happened to change it over time?
3. What have we got now? What is our current governance like?
Start by looking at your current governance overall.
- What’s working?
- What’s not and why?
- What strengths, talent and experience do we have to help us build our governance?
- What weaknesses and gaps do we have in our current governance?
- What place do our cultural values and ways of governing have in our governance arrangements?
Answering these questions together will give you a clearer idea about the things you want to protect and strengthen in your governance. Understanding what you have also enables you to identify what else you need. (The quick governance health check-up will also help with this.)
4. What do we want? What will our future governance look like?
This question has to do with the goals you are trying to accomplish for the future. If you can’t see where you want to be, you won’t be able to find your way there.
- What kind of governance are we trying to build for our group, our members, our children and the generations to come?
- What do we hope will be different or better about our governance arrangements?
- What do we want to stay the same?
Answers to these questions will give you a strategic vision for your governance. This might sound like a wish list, but it will help you make choices.
5. How do we get it? What is our strategy?
This is about how you can make your future vision happen.
- What are our specific concerns and priorities?
- What plans and actions should we develop and take?
- Who will be responsible for doing it, and by when?
- What resources do we need?
- What are the risks involved and how can we deal with them?
- How we are going to tell if we are making progress and getting the outcomes we want?
It doesn’t matter if you start with small steps, as long as you have a good idea of where those steps fit into your overall governance plan and goals.
This resource lays out some basic questions and instructions for mapping your governance history. Follow these instructions and work with your leaders, nation or community members to see how your governance history is influencing the way you work today.
3.2.2 Mapping community assets for governance
Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nation, community, group and organisation can identify things it does not have (needs) and things it does have (assets). A strong group or organisation identifies and uses its assets to meet its needs. A governance asset map is one way of doing this.
This map is a snapshot that identifies and brings together information about your overall governance assets. It is written from a community perspective and often makes use of a variety of visual forms, not just text.
For example, it identifies your collective:
- knowledge, skills, talents and capacities
- resources (natural, financial, economic)
- traditional land ownership and languages
- families, kin relationships and social support networks
- leaders and decision-makers
- laws, rules and decision-making practices
- contemporary governing structures (informal committees, working groups and incorporated organisations)
- the services and programs available to your members
- wider networks, stakeholders, and government and agency funders.
Your governance asset map will help you better understand the local strengths and expertise you can call upon from your own people in order to rebuild your governance.
It will also enable you to answer some hard questions such as:
- Who really makes the important decisions within your nation or community?
- How many different leaders, organisations committees and agencies are located in your community?
- How do they influence the effectiveness of your overall governance?
As an organisation or community leader, first explain to your members the importance and benefits of mapping the organisation’s or community’s governance assets, then you can follow these steps to map your governance assets.
- Form a community or organisational mapping team.
- Engage interested people at the beginning, as governance mapping also involves building governance capacity.
- Identify and define the purpose of the governance map. Decide on the governance issues or problems that need to be addressed.
- Identify the target audience of your governance map. This will affect what kind of information you need to collect and how you present it.
- Decide on the most appropriate scale for the mapping project. Determine whether you will focus on:
- your particular local community
- your community and its outlying outstations or neighbourhoods
- two related communities
- two or three related groups or organisations within a wider community, or
- your location as a discreet settlement or as a dispersed set of groups.
- Hold a training workshop to enhance community mapping techniques and skills. Make sure everyone involved in governance mapping takes part and that the workshop is controlled by your community or group.
- Identify and collect relevant information from local people, as well as statistics, administration data and other sources. What you want to do may have been tried and tested already.
- Create a physical map or series of illustrations using your data. Use Indigenous materials, photos and paintings that define the governance of your organisation and community.
- Promote your governance map by sharing it with the community and your target audience.
- Conduct a workshop to discuss the content of the map and to identify possible gaps, strengths and collective opportunities for building stronger governance.
- Use the map to start practical activities that will help address any governance problems or weaknesses. Do not just stick it on an office wall.
- Make sure people in the community and organisation take part in these practical activities and that they have ownership of the map’s information and its outcomes.
- Recognise and respect the diversity of rights, values, ideas and opinions that exist within the community and organisation.
- Make sure this governance mapping work is closely linked to real results that are important to the group, community and organisation.
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