2.0 Culture and governance
In this part of the toolkit you’ll find answers to questions, such as:
- What is culture?
- What is the cultural basis for Indigenous governance?
- What is cultural legitimacy and why is it important for the effectiveness of Indigenous governance?
- What is ‘two-way’ legitimacy and why is it important?
This topic will help to give you an understanding of where your culture ‘fits’ in the governance of your nation, community, group or organisation, and the wider environment.
2.0.1 At the heart of every society’s way of governing is its culture
What is culture?
Different cultures have different rules for how they govern.
Culture lies at the heart of governance. It informs a group’s rules and values about what is the ‘right way’ of exercising power and governing—and what is the ‘wrong way’.
Definition: Culture is a whole system of knowledge, beliefs, ideas, values, powers, laws, rules and meanings that are shared by the members of a society, and together form the foundation for the way they live.
A particular culture is acquired and transmitted by people over the generations, through written means and oral traditions, participation in group activities and the socialisation of young children.
A shared culture enables people to communicate with each other, behave in an accepted way and do things together towards common ends.
2.0.2 How do governance and culture interact?
Ideas about governance are different from one culture to the next.
Culture can change over time—sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly—through people’s own choice or design, or because change is imposed from the outside.
As a group’s culture changes, so too may its governance arrangements. And occasionally, making big changes to governance can cause changes in people’s culture.
Problems can quickly arise when very different systems of governance interact, with their competing values and contradictory expectations about what is ‘the right’ way of governing.
Sometimes changes to governance are welcomed and supported by the members of a group or nation; for example, when the changes come from within the group itself and are viewed as being culturally legitimate.
Sometimes the changes are seen to lack cultural legitimacy—particularly if they are imposed from the outside—in which case they are unlikely to be accepted or followed by group members.
Western Desert Diaylsis on putting cultural values at the heart of what you do
Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corp Inc. (WDNWPT) CEO Sarah Brown and Board Director Marlene Spencer talk about how culture and Aboriginal values are woven into the organisation’s governance and about the importance of Aboriginal people setting priorities rather than governments.