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
8.2 Core principles and skills for dispute and complaint resolution
Conflict is natural and can even have positive outcomes if it is properly managed and lessons are learned.
For that to happen, you need to have procedures, rules and policies to prevent, detect and deal with disputes and complaints, and to implement your decisions and solutions.
Conflicts and grievances within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities can be extremely complex—many have long histories, and bring into play large social networks and overlapping rights and interests.
The issues under dispute may be emotionally charged and based on deeply felt cultural values and explanations that are not easily understood by outsiders.
Dealing with such situations requires considerable experience and intercultural sensitivity.
8.2.1 Effective two-way principles
Whatever the issue, your processes will be more effective if they are informed by best-practice cross-cultural principles that build two-way legitimacy and accountability.
The principles below will help inform such an approach.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to processes, rules and agreement outcomes that:
- deal with disputes, corruption, conflicts of interest or complaints fairly, openly and without favouritism
- are tailored to local needs, beliefs and values, and are seen as culturally legitimate and accepted by the group, individual or organisation
- are based on people giving their free and informed consent to processes and agreement outcomes
- take all parties’ views into account, as well as the history and relationships involved
- reinforce consensus approaches to decision making—decisions are not rushed and ‘quick fix’ solutions are not imposed at the expense of sustainable resolutions
- enable people to actively participate in and own their decisions and solutions
- are legal, workable and consistent so that people see them as reliable and they can be put into practice
- recognise and build on local capacity, knowledge and skills
- promote social satisfaction and restoration of harmony among the parties involved
- maximise self-determination and protect hard-won legal, gender and human rights
- are fully documented, with relevant information widely communicated, understood and accessible
- are open to further appeal, review and mediation
- do no harm to relationships and collective identities—they should not further exacerbate a conflict, entrench people into antagonistic positions, or wrongly marginalise people
- recognise that some long-term disputes may not be amenable to resolution—but their destabilising dynamics should be taken into account in any solutions
- include options for arm’s-length facilitation where external people act as mediators or negotiators, and do so by being objective, free from bias and fair.
(Adapted from Toni Bauman, ‘Final Report of the Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project’, AIATSIS, 2006)
8.2.2 Skills and knowledge needed
Resolving disputes, grievances and complaints isn’t easy; especially if intercultural values and expectations are called into play.
To be an effective mediator of any form of conflict you need to have personal sensitivity, authority, astuteness, cross-cultural communication skills, and be trusted and respected.
Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations often find themselves at the frontline of trying to resolve disputes and complaints involving their members, governing bodies or staff.
As a result, many are investing in:
- running customised training for their own staff members and management in the areas of alternative dispute resolution and complaint mediation
- delivering education and information campaigns for their members
- ensuring their governing body leaders are equipped with the knowledge and skills to deal effectively with the contentious issues they are confronted with.
- Good conflict analysis skills.
- Good knowledge of the context and related history.
- Sensitivity to the local cultural context and relationships.
- Local language skills or access to good translators.
- Technical expertise as required.
- Enough status and credibility to make decisions and then act on them or have others do so.
- Good knowledge of the people, issues and organisation involved.
- Skills in facilitation, mediation, teamwork and counselling.
All governing bodies or community committees involved in dispute resolution, mediation or agreement making should have relevant skills and information, or be able to secure them externally.
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