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
9.2 Governance for nation rebuilding
Definition: When we talk about governance for nation rebuilding, we’re talking about the practical mechanisms that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use to collectively organise how they go about trying to get the things done that matter most to them.
Simply put its how they can govern in a way that maximises their ongoing self-determination.
For many Indigenous Australians a transition is occurring from the pure ‘rights battle’ to the ‘governance and development challenge’ where practical capacity to govern is critical to future outcomes.
9.2.1 Two different approaches
“Many Indigenous groups have spent so much time and energy fighting for recognition and rights, and dealing with internal disagreements along the way, that they have cut short building their own governance foundations. As a result, when nations and communities do emerge from the maelstrom with rights, resources and development opportunities, they then face the challenge of having to implement and sustain those—but do so with ineffective or underdeveloped governing arrangements. They then have to race to catch up, or worse, they miss out on opportunities and get continually hammered by a downwards spiral of crises, loss of confidence and disengagement by citizens.”
(Steve Cornell, quoted at ‘Common Roots, Common Futures:
Different Paths to Self-determination—An international Conversation’,
University of Arizona, 2012)
What worked to get people through times of political advocacy or hard legal negotiations with colonial governments is not necessarily what will work to implement the rights and benefits secured out of those actions.
In Australia, governance arrangements have often been imposed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups from the outside, according to the agenda, priorities and values of mainstream governments, missionary churches, and others.
In general this ‘standard’ approach to governance and development is very different to that of a nation-rebuilding approach:
Culture is portrayed as problematic.
Culture is seen as a strength and asset.
Decision making is short term, non-strategic and often externally controlled.
Decision making is able to be longer term, strategic and under the control of the nation.
External parties set the future direction.
Future agenda setting is directed by the nation.
Development is treated as primarily an economic problem and goal.
Development is seen as an interrelated social, economic and cultural goal.
Leaders act as hunters and distributors of resources and services, and make ill-informed decisions.
Leaders act as stewards, nation-builders, mediators and mobilisers, and can make decisions based on plans.
Accountability is upwards to external parties and focuses on financial administration.
Accountability is downwards to the nation’s members and focuses on collective goals.
Governing rules and frameworks are based on external values, standards and concepts.
Governing rules and frameworks reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander political cultures and concepts.
The result is failed governance and enterprises; politicised decisions; a governance culture that is dependent on external funds and remedial intervention; an impression of chaos and dysfunction; and continued poverty.
The result is growing governance capacity; consensus decision making; sustainable enterprises and community development; a governance culture where risk is evaluated, managed and diversified; an impression of competence and resilience; and socioeconomic progress.
(Adapted from S. Cornell, ‘Two approaches to the development of native nations’, Rebuilding Native Nations, University of Arizona Press, 2007)
9.2.2 The ladder of self-governance: where are you?
The ladder of self-governance for nation rebuilding is a simplistic diagram that sets out the levels or rungs on the climb towards achieving genuine governing authority and responsibility that will support nation rebuilding.
In real life there are many more rungs and complications involved. The move from the standard approach to a nation-rebuilding approach is usually a slow and stop-start process.
Every rung needs to be accompanied by building the capacity to practically exercise the governing authority that has been secured.
The descriptions in this tool will help you decide where on the ladder of effective self-governance you feel your group, community or organisation is currently located.
Adapted from Sherry Arnstein, ‘A Ladder of Citizen Participation’, JAIP, Vol.35, No.4, July 1969, pp.216-224.
9.2.3 The nation-rebuilding approach
A nation-rebuilding approach requires a new conversation about the role and the strategic vision of tribal, clan or community governance—and how to go about achieving it.
Redesigning governance arrangements is, in effect, a sovereign decision—it’s what ‘self-determination in action’ is about.
Initially it may be about a small area of decision-making control and responsibility. But whatever the focus, under a nation-rebuilding approach, the governance arrangements must, first and foremost, be the result of informed decisions made by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved.
Beginning a nation-rebuilding strategy will necessarily involve your group or community in conversations and some hard decisions about how you can:
- draw on your unique governance cultures and traditions, and work from a basis of respect for and protection of your cultural identities
- determine what constitutes legitimacy for your nation—who can speak when, for whom, to whom and about what. This includes ensuring the vulnerable within your nation are equally represented
- determine what kind of leadership you need, what effectiveness and capacity means for your nation, and then design appropriate processes, rules and structures to implement those
- build a strong mandate from your members and provide them with a voice to participate in decision making about governance priorities, aspirations and arrangements
- engage with the wider governance environment and your networks, and insist on your governance arrangements being respected in relationships with other parties.
The next topic provides you with practical tools and advice about how to get started on these conversations.
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