Winners and finalists of the 2022 Indigenous Governance Awards talk about the importance of developing the next generation of leaders and how succession planning takes place in their organisation...
- 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
5.8 Case Studies
Ensuring members are kept informed
Association of Northern Kimberly and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) was established to support Indigenous artists and Art Centres. ANKAAA’s members are spread over a huge geographic range (1 million square kilometres) and are situated in some of the most remote terrain in Australia. ANKAAA’s membership is both linguistically and culturally diverse and includes members from over 100 different language groups.
In light of this, the ANKAAA Board of Directors meets face-to-face only four times a year but they also hold a further four to six meetings via teleconference. Holding meetings via teleconference saves the organisation money in travel expenses while also ensuring that everyone is kept in the loop with what is going on in other regions (without the need to travel vast distances).
Given the linguistic diversity of ANKAAA’s members, the Annual Report is not only available in printed form but is also delivered to members via a PowerPoint presentation at the Annual General Meeting. This is a great way to ensure that members in attendance understand the information contained in the Annual Report, as well as allowing them to ask any questions as they arise.
Dreaming big and the importance of planning
Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation (AAC) benefits Aboriginal people in the Pilbara through increasing employment and enterprise opportunities, and by providing education and training services.
AAC wanted to do something to help the local youth. The organisation had been discussing different ideas about what to do for over two years but nothing seemed to stick, until someone suggested sub-leasing a section of a local station named Peedamulla to run a youth training facility.
The initial dream was to run a section of Peedamulla as a training facility in the areas of station work, station management and hospitality and in addition, create a viable commercial business for the benefit of Ashburton Shire Aboriginal communities.
The Board of Directors and the CEO agreed that it would be a great opportunity for the youth of the Ashburton region, but despite the initial excitement over the proposal everyone was well aware that dreaming big was just the beginning.
There were a lot of factors that the Board of Directors needed to take into consideration to make sure their dream for Peedamulla station would become a reality. Things such as, negotiating with the Peedamulla station managers for a sublease, structuring the training program, updating existing infrastructure, organising contractors, finding staff for the facility as well as hiring a station manager. However, first they needed to consider whether the dream for Peedamulla was one that was practically viable. Through careful planning and consideration, the Board of Directors and the CEO identified other practical issues which needed to be taken into account before the youth training facility could be up and running. These issues involved answering questions about whether the land at the station needed to be regenerated. How many head of cattle could the land sustainably maintain? Was there water access on the property? And what were the costs involved in getting things up and running?
After these and many other issues were identified, the Board and the CEO painstakingly worked through them one by one to make sure their dream of a youth training facility would not fall by the wayside due to bad planning and rash decision making.
Everyone involved in the initial planning stages knew that in order to make their dream into a reality they would have to work through every issue they could think of, right down to the smallest detail. This was not a quick process and doing it right took a couple of months.
Janet Brown, CEO of ACC, talks of the careful planning process undertaken by Board;
“A risk analysis was undertaken as a part of the whole consultation process (but we don’t give it that name). We came out knowing about the land needing regeneration, the risks of putting too many cattle on the land at first – and things like that. But the bottom line was that we decided to go ahead. At the first meeting we talked about how much it was going to cost, what the potential issues might be with accessing Peedamulla’s water. At the second meeting everything was on the table and the Directors looked at everything they could. We do this as a matter of course. We look at proposals over time. At the first meeting we float the idea. At the next meeting we might bring up someone to present and make sure the full range of information is on the table and then we have a robust discussion. By the third meeting we may be ready to reach consensus, but only after everyone has had a chance to think things through”
The Board was determined to see the dream for their youth training facility come alive and through extensive planning and careful consideration they were able to make this happen.
Today, the training facility is known as Ashmulla and is run on over 1 million hectares. At present the Board, CEO and station manager are all working towards getting Ashmulla stocked up and running at a profit to benefit the Ashburton Shire Aboriginal communities.
The process of taking a dream from the boardroom table through to an operational enterprise was a long one, but well worth it. With careful planning and good decision making, Ashmulla looks to be successful well into the future.
Doreen James, chairperson of AAC, is excited by the possibilities for not only for the youth in her own community but also for Aboriginal youth from other communities stating that “Doing work on the station will help build resilience and give young ones more purpose and new set of skills”.
Practicing collective decision making
Galambila Aboriginal Health Service Incorporated (AHS) is the peak provider of high quality, culturally appropriate, holistic primary health and related care services for the Aboriginal communities residing in and around Coffs Harbour, Urunga, Bellingen/Dorrigo, Woolgoolga, Corindi and Ulong in North Eastern NSW.
Galambila’s governance structure supports the Board of Directors by focusing on strategy, planning and risk while the CEO, supported by the executive team, focuses on managing the daily operations of the organisation. This separation of duties means that the Board, which is democratically elected by the community, is able to fulfil its purpose of representing the views and wishes of the community and ensures that the organisation is responsive to those desires.
The Galambila Board practices collective decision making and all decisions are made on the basis of the consensus of the entire Board. All conflicts of interest are noted at the beginning of every meeting and a register is maintained to ensure that the Board acts to fulfil its duties ethically and without undue influence from external parties. As the Board meets monthly, it enables the Board to keep current with any major issues affecting the governance of the organisation and respond to those issues in a timely manner.
The Board has a key role in the development of the strategic direction of the organisation. It is highly involved in the development of the strategic plan. The Board supports the strategic plan by developing policies which allow and direct the use of the organisation’s resources to carry out strategic plan and support the organisation’s Vision and Mission.
Developing a structured decision making model
Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi was established in recognition of the severe sickness, poverty, helplessness and distress experienced by Central Australian Aboriginal people as a result of dispossession of traditional lands, cultural disintegration and social and economic marginalisation. Waltja supports self-determination for Aboriginal People living in remote communities in central Australia, as well as the development and provision of community services that are governed by local Aboriginal People and which provide employment and professional development for local Aboriginal people. Examples of community based services that Waltja currently provides or supports include child and youth programs, aged care, disability services, financial literacy training, cultural maintenance and support for aged care and art centres.
Waltja’s members are Aboriginal women who are permanent residents of remote communities in the Central Australian Region. Each year Waltja holds its Annual General Meeting, at which a Board of Directors (a Maximum of 12 Senior women) are elected by people from Waltja’s membership. The Board of Directors are representative of each of Waltja’s target communities and are elected at Waltja’s AGM by their peers on the basis of the length of their membership with Waltja, their community service, leadership and advocacy skills. Five Executive Directors are then elected by the Board of Directors. Directors and Executive Directors hold office for one year and are able to run for re-election the following year.
All policy decisions and strategic planning are made at the Board of Directors meetings. At every meeting correspondence is tabled. Often there are visitors presenting information for the Directors to discuss. First an executive member will explain why something is important and needs to be talked about and then Waltja’s Manager or staff may give some background information. The Board makes decisions by listening and talking together. Sometimes they break up into language groups for discussion and then report back to the whole group.
Waltja aims for consensus decisions but can use voting if a consensus is not reached. However, unresolved issues are usually carried forward to the next Executive or Directors meetings with additional information. Talking in meetings is usually in several languages; English, Warlpiri, Luritja, Western Arrernte, Eastern Arrernte, Pintupi, Kaytetye Anmatyerre, Alyawarre and Pitjantjatjara. All of Waltja’s directors are multilingual in the region’s Aboriginal languages and speak and understand English. Waltja’s Directors declare any conflict of interest and stand down from decision-making when a conflict of interest might arise.
Keeping the community informed
Waltja is committed to ensuring the community is kept informed about what the organisation is doing. Because Waltja represents many people from different language groups across vast differences they use a combination of ways to ensure their message gets out.
Some of the ideas proven to work well include:
- Visiting community: Board members, staff members and management get out and about within their communities as well as working on programs within community and proactively seek community feedback, which is then used to improve Waltja’s service delivery.
- Sending faxes containing important information to remote community members and service workers. This ensures members and service workers who may not have guaranteed access to the internet remain informed.
- Making sure managers give reports and up-dates at Board meetings.
- Waltja’s Family News publication is published 3-4 times a year and is widely distributed to communities across the Central Australian region.
- Waltja maintains an easy to use and informative website which can be accessed by community and stakeholders at any time.
- Waltja staff make sure that community members feel welcome and comfortable in visiting the office or ringing up to ask questions or seek information.
- Having community contact people, who disseminate information by word of mouth amongst their family and peers. These people also hold informal consultation within their communities and convey feedback to Waltja.
Building capacity and confidence for governing bodies.
Waltja was established in recognition of the severe sickness, poverty, helplessness and distress experienced by Central Australian Aboriginal people as a result of dispossession of traditional lands, cultural disintegration and social and economic marginalisation.
The structure of the Waltja Board consists of one Director and one Proxy elected from each community. From a community perspective, this means that if a situation ever arises where a Director is unable to attend a Board meeting, their community’s voice can still be heard by using the proxy. From a personal perspective, it means that Directors feel supported by the proxy whenever they have to talk about or make decisions that may impact their own community.
Waltja’s system of inviting a second woman, the proxy, to attend meetings along with each Director also works well in encouraging community development by allowing more experienced women the opportunity to mentor younger or less confident women.
Choosing Directors and Board Members
The primary purpose of the Wunan Foundation is to provide local Aboriginal people with better life choices and help them achieve greater self-empowerment through tailored programs and partnerships with a clear focus on housing, education, employment.
The Wunan Board of Directors consists of 8 highly respected Indigenous leaders representing the 3 wards in the East Kimberley, including remote communities. Directors serve a term of 3 years and are self-nominated and elected based on their skills and how they can assist Wunan in their mission of improving the lives of Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley. Directors are also elected based on how their personal beliefs and behaviours align with the Wunan philosophy and their individual contributions to the community.
The Wunan Board’s Members have a diverse skill set across a range of areas including community projects and engagement, local business initiatives, WA Government Department projects and non-government sector business. Several members have extensive skills in Indigenous affairs, Indigenous governance and non for profit business models.
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