1.1 The important parts of governance
1.1.1 What is ‘good’ governance?
Building governance is a journey in which the road ahead and the final destination can change over time. As people from different cultures have their own ways of judging what is ‘good’ governance or not, problems can arise when one society or group imposes their view of what is ‘good’ governance onto another.
Because of this, the Indigenous Community Governance Project suggests that instead of talking about ‘good’ governance, it’s more useful to talk about ‘effective’ and ‘legitimate’ governance.
Effective governance means having rules, structures and processes that are capable of achieving your objectives—it gets things done.
In order to do this, governance must also be legitimate.
Legitimate governance means your rules, structures and processes have to be seen as credible and worthy by your members, and must match their ideas about how authority should be organised and exercised—it gets things done ‘properly’.
There are some principles of effective governance that many experts argue should be considered when new governance arrangements are being created.
For example, the United Nations Development Program says that to have effective governance, it is necessary to have:
- Legitimacy and voice—where all men and women have a say in decisions and about what is in the best interests of the community or group
- Fairness—where all men and women have the opportunity to maintain and improve their wellbeing and have their human rights protected
- Accountability—where decision-makers are accountable to their members, the public and stakeholders.
- Direction—where leaders and members have a shared, long-term view of what their future society is going to be like
- Performance—where the governance system delivers goods, services and outcomes that are planned for and meet the needs of the members.
The Indigenous Community Governance Research Project in Australia has identified several basic conditions which, in combination, help to produce effective Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance:
- governing institutions (rules)
- genuine decision-making power
- practical capacity
- cultural legitimacy
Not surprisingly, to be effective and legitimate these governance solutions need to be tailored to suit the local environment.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, achieving effective and legitimate governance can be particularly challenging because it involves working across Indigenous and western ways of governing, and trying to negotiate the demands of both.
Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly and self-determination
Murdi Paaki Chair Sam Jeffries talks about self-determination and governance in Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly.
Check-up: Effective legitimate governance
In a well-governed nation, community, group or organisation, the people (members, board, staff and leaders) have an agreed way of doing things. You can use this check-up to see if you have the right stuff.
1.1.2 The important parts of governance
Governance is made up of many different, but equally important elements. These all need to work well together if your nation, group, community or organisations are going to be effective.
Culture is at the heart of every society’s governance arrangements and this is also true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
For Indigenous governance to be effective it is not enough to simply cherry pick and import foreign governance structures and processes into communities, and expect those communities to function effectively within those arrangements.
To be meaningful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the component parts of governance must reflect important relationships, networks, values and ways of behaving.
The challenge is to craft arrangements that incorporate both the Indigenous requirement for cultural legitimacy, as well as meeting the governance requirements of the wider non-Indigenous society.
The important parts of governance
(who does it)
(how you do it)
(what you do)
(what you need)
(the way you do things)
|Your wider environment