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- Understand Indigenous governance
- Your culture
- Assess your governance
- Build your governance
- Your people
- Systems and plans
- Conflict resolution and peacemaking
- Governance Stories
- Useful links
Know your people
This topic is about identifying the people involved in your governance. We discuss how to define your group and who can be a part of it. We also explore the different roles people play in governance. This topic matches ‘Know your people’ in our Governance Self-assessment Tool. We recommend that you do activities 1.1 and 1.2 in the tool after reading each subtopic.
While reading this topic, think about the following questions and how they relate to your organisation, community or nation:
- What organisation, community or nation are you a part of?
- Who ‘does’ your governance?
- Who is your governance for?
Define who you are
Governance is all about people with shared interests working together to achieve common goals.
People are the foundation of your governance. Their ideas, priorities and concerns are what drives your group’s decisions and actions. In turn, it’s important that you are clear on ‘who’ exactly is at the centre of your governance.
Your group’s identity
Your group’s identity is the heart of who your group is. It encompasses what brings you together and what makes you unique. The basis of your group’s identity is what your members have in common. It has implications for the structure and scope of your governance.
Having a clear group identity makes it easier to set boundaries around who participates in your governance and who you are accountable to.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are diverse in their culture, history, location, size and context. There are many different reasons why you may come together to govern yourselves.
You and your people may:
- have the same goals or interests – for example, sporting or artistic communities and political lobby groups
- live or work in the same geographic community – for example, towns or outstations
- share the same culture, family, kinship group or language group
- be traditional owners of Country.1Bauman, T., Smith, D.E., Keller, C., Drieberg, L. and R. Quiggan. 2015. Indigenous Governance Building: Mapping Current and Future Research and Practical Resource Needs, Report of Workshop convened by AIATSIS and AIGI, p. 20, Canberra July 2014, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra and the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, Sydney.
The inclusion of these networks are often what make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group identity unique.
Do activity 1.1 to reflect on your group’s identity.
The goal of this activity is to map out what makes your group distinct. Keep in mind that your answers will be unique and may relate to more than one of the elements above.
Everyone has a part to play in governance. But not everyone does the same job or has the same responsibilities. When making plans to build, rebuild or change your governance, you need to think about who does what.
A good place to start is by identifying the ‘doers’ and ‘beneficiaries’ of your governance.
The doers of your governance
The doers are the people who carry out your governance. They are responsible for:
- making decisions
- implementing actions
- carrying out tasks to get things done.
When assessing who the doers are, think about who has authority. Authority is the power or right to exercise rules and enforce decisions. Authority can arise from cultural systems, professional experience, and formal laws and rules.
The motivations for becoming a doer can vary through governance. Some people are doers because of their knowledge, skills and expertise, while others may have a special interest or connection to the governance of your organisation, community, or nation. This can bring a range of perspectives and strengths to your governance.
The beneficiaries of your governance
The beneficiaries are the people or groups who directly benefit from your governance.2Phil Rabinowitz, “Identifying and Analyzing Stakeholders and Their Interests,” Community Tool Box, accessed June 2023,[link] They are the ones who are impacted by the decisions and actions of doers. Your beneficiaries may be those who:
- are represented through your governance
- stand to gain something from your governance
- hold the doers accountable.
The wellbeing, rights and aspirations of your beneficiaries are at the core of your governance. Knowing clearly who they are is integral to building purposeful governance that is customised to their needs and values. It also helps groups understand who they are responsible for through and accountable to through their governance.
To identify who your beneficiaries are, think about whose needs you want to address through your governance. Consider engaging with the people in your local networks and listen respectively to their perspectives and opinions.
Do activity 1.2 to identify the doers and beneficiaries in your group.
We’ve translated our extensive research on Indigenous governance into helpful resources and tools to help you strengthen your governance practices.
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