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
8.3 Disputes and complaints about governance
“Misunderstanding and misinformation is a major contributor to conflict.”
(Toni Bauman, 2007, Indigenous Law Bulletin Vol 6, No 29)
Many grievances and disputes arise from governance arrangements themselves and can involve multiple parties.
For example, conflict may occur:
- within the membership of a nation, community or organisation
- within an organisation’s own governing body, staff and management
- between organisations or leaders
- between a group and an organisation
- with external stakeholders or other parties.
8.3.1 Governance hotspots for conflict and complaints.
This is a list of several hotspot areas in your governance arrangements that can quickly become the source of complaint and conflict:
- Your leadership— leaders not being seen as having the authority, legitimacy and credentials to lead and represent their people
- Your governing body—a lack of capacity, fairness and honesty; conflicts of interest; a lack of experience in setting directions and developing policy; poor communication and consultation with members; interference in the daily management of an organisation or giving direct instructions to staff contrary to stated policy and plans.
- Your decision making—it is not fair, consensual, legal, informed, consistent, and transparent; decisions are not implemented and reported on
- Your members—identifying who are the ‘right’ members of your community, group or nation, to the exclusion of others; having particular families take over the running of an organisation or project to the exclusion of others; competing or overlapping rights and interests; politicised factions
- Your managers and staff—taking over the role and authority of the governing body without delegation; a lack of capacity, fairness and honesty; lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities; not operating under policies and instructions
- Your assets and finances— money, resources and benefits are not correctly secured and distributed; service delivery and government funding are inadequate
- Your external stakeholders—a failure in the capacity, fairness and honesty of governments and their officers; differing views between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, governments and private sector partners about what constitutes ‘good’ governance, financial management and leadership.
8.3.2 What happens if hotspot disputes are not addressed?
Effective governance involves stewardship—that means being able to lead on behalf of all your members in a way that safeguards and promotes the exercise of their collective and individual rights and interests.
Effective governance also means being able to plan, organise, delegate and give direction.
If your dispute resolution policies and procedures have not been developed, are not well understood or are not enforced:
- the effectiveness and legitimacy of your governance arrangements may be undermined, if not permanently eroded
- your organisation and group as a whole may be brought into public disrepute
- the members of your own nation and community may be ripped apart for generations
- your external funding and partnerships may be withdrawn.
Decisions about disputes and complaints should not be based on particular family connections, a single leader’s opinion or a romanticised view of how things may have been done in the past.
It is important to develop approaches that not only respect and reinvigorate cultural values but that can also work successfully in the practical situations people face today.
8.3.3 A quick conflict analysis tool
“We are strong. We talk about things together. If there are mistakes or any problems we find out what the problems are first and work out what to do. We work out what to do together.”
(Gloria Mengil, Director Waringarri Arts Aboriginal Corporation, Application to Indigenous Governance Awards, 2012)
Before leaping in to fix a problem, it is useful to step back and get the facts.
The first step is to understand what the dispute or complaint is about, who is involved, the history behind it, and the nature of the interests and rights involved.
From there you can move on to consider what agreed values, rules and goals might inform your process and outcomes.
This tool will help groups and organisations understand the causes of a conflict or complaint, consider the range of views, values and actions involved, and then think about ways to deal with the issue based on those understandings and agreed rules.
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