2.2 Two-way Governance
2.2.1 What is two-way governance?
The two-way accountability of Indigenous organisations and governing bodies
This is ‘two-way’ governance—for example, where the governance of an Indigenous organisation has to work both internally and externally. Sometimes it can be hard to balance Indigenous cultural expectations, with the requirements set out by government or funding bodies. Finding that balance and meeting Indigenous and non-Indigenous requirements means building governance that works well ‘two-ways’.
“It’s really all about two laws—Yolngu and Balanda—and the struggle we have had for Yolngu law to be recognised … Two hundred and ten years ago my ancestors were living here on this land. We had our own system of government, law and land tenure … although Yolngu law has stability, stays the same, the Balanda law changes all the time and can wipe away our rights with the stroke of a pen. When the two meet, unless there are special measures made to help each law speak to each other and understand each other, we can get it very very wrong.”
(Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Third Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, 20 August 1998, Darwin)
In Australia today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are trying to live under two laws: their own and those of non-Indigenous Australia.
This means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to maintain the internal effectiveness and legitimacy of their governance— the support of the people who share the same values—and be able to get things done for them. But they also need to be effective and credible with external stakeholders (like funding bodies or governments) that play an important role in their nation, community or organisation.
Definition: This balancing act is called two-way governance. It refers to the efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in negotiating a pathway forward by developing governance arrangements that seek to achieve a workable balance between maintaining cultural integrity and maximising their self-determination. It also involves ensuring that their models of governance accord with the requirements (such as financial and legal accountability) of the wider society in which they live.
Building effective Indigenous governance involves securing greater two-way accountability and legitimacy.
2.2.2 Bringing two ways together
There are major challenges in managing the daily tensions caused by operating under dual systems of governance.
Nevertheless, many organisations, community groups and nations are creating innovative governance arrangements that are robust and realistic enough to encompass and engage with often divergent Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance values and practices.
MG Corporation on working two ways
Edna O’Malley, MG Corporation Chair explains how MG Corporation practices two-way governance.
One way of giving your two-way solutions a strong basis is to set them out in writing—in your constitution or preamble; in your nation, committee or organisation’s vision statement (your ‘language picture of the future’); and in your governance policies and other documents.
A vision and a preamble
It is important for a nation, community group, committee or organisation to prepare a vision that encapsulates its members’ values and where they see themselves in the future. This vision can be supported by a ‘preamble’ that explains the vision in the context of the organisation or community.
2.2.3 The governance environment
June Oscar, in her keynote speech to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Native Title Conference in June 2012, said:,
“It is important that we acknowledge the challenging and complex operating environment
which we are all continuing to live in, seeking justice and trying to raise families,
and holding onto the lived practices of our beliefs. We as Indigenous people live out our lives in two worlds according to our custom and tradition and the modern reality.”
Your governance environment is more than just your extended family group, clan, community, nation or organisation.
You are also part of a wider governance environment made up of other organisations, groups, communities, businesses, companies, governments, economic forces and laws. They all interact with you and influence how well your governance works.
Your governance culture and environment
This diagram shows the layers of your governance environment.
Sometimes other groups may support your governance approach and goals; sometimes they may want you to do things differently.
There will always be changes in your wider environment and many will be beyond your control. It is important to be take charge of your own agenda and control what you can locally—to be in the driver’s seat making the decisions and setting your own course.
That means making strategic use of what you do have—your culture, resources, networks, people, skills and knowledge—and working out how to deal with those things that are stopping you from achieving your goals.
In doing this, it is useful to think about your culture at the heart of your self-determination and self-governance. Around that core are the surrounding layers of the wider environment.
Use the diagram to talk together about:
- who are the influential people and things in your environment
- which parts are having an impact (positive and negative)
- which parts you can actually do something about.
Then you can work out strategies to manage any risks, and take advantage of the opportunities that might arise from them. Some will be issues and things you can address in the short term; others will be things you have to keep monitoring over the long term. Some will be beyond your direct control.
You will find more information and tools for getting started with this kind of strategic planning in Topic 3.