3.0 Getting started on building your governance
Every group of people needs to look at its governance at some stage to start thinking about developing new processes, rules or structures.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been working for years to reclaim governing authority and self-determining responsibility for their nations and communities. Many have had to tackle hard questions such as:
- how do you get started on the road to rebuilding your governance?
- how can you tell what is working and not working well?
- what are the best ways to go about evaluating your governance?
- how can you translate your insights and strengths into action, and make sure you stay on track?
In this part of the toolkit you’ll find practical answers to these questions, together with information, ideas and tools to help you get started on reviewing your governance, and identifying the assets and strengths you can build on.
How the MWG came together
The Muntjiltjarra Wurrgumu Group (MWG) was awarded Highly Commended Category B in the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. Here MWG members Regina Ashwin and Stacey Petterson outline how the MWG came together as a representative group as part of the Wiluna Regional Partnership Agreement. The group conducted a survey to understand what was important from a local perspective.
How the Yiriman project started
In this clip Yiriman elders and cultural bosses John Watson and Joe Brown talk about getting their project started. Yiriman, winner of the Indigenous Governance Awards in 2012, is a youth program run by the elders of four Kimberley language groups. Culture and care for Country are used to instil young people with a sense of identity and purpose.
3.0.1 Challenges in getting started
“What’s holding you back? Some of it is other people and governments. But perhaps some of it is you. Identify the problems that you need to deal with—and take responsibility for them …
You can’t do everything at once. But you can start somewhere …
The first steps may be big, or they may be small. The point is to begin.”
(Stephen Cornell, ‘Starting and sustaining strong indigenous governance’, presentation to Building Effective Indigenous Governance conference, 4–7 November 2003, Jabiru, Northern Territory)
Strengthening and rebuilding your governance is a journey. You cannot fix everything at once and there are no perfect ‘good governance’ solutions. Rebuilding your governance could require big, immediate changes or small, progressive ones.
So it’s important to be open to different ideas—to see what works best in your circumstances and to experiment with ways of developing solutions that are culturally credible as well as practically effective.
It’s also good to be flexible because what works best now might not work so well in 10 years.
To tackle your governance issues you will need:
- a shared commitment
- courage and hard work
- time and persistence
- planning and teamwork
- sensitivity to people’s concerns
- strong leadership
- negotiation and mediation skills
- a strong idea of where you want to go
- a good sense of humour!
Someone has to lead the way, but you also have to keep your nation and community members with you on the journey. The process may challenge the existing vested interests within your own community and in your external environment. So try to be inclusive and keep as many people as possible involved in the process.
How the IUIH formed to address common goals
The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) was a Finalist in Category A of the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. Here Director of Operations and Communications Jody Currie and CEO Adrian Carson explains how the IUIH came together to create a regional solution to common goals, and some of the challenges that arose during this process.
How Western Desert Dialysis started?
Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corp Inc (WDNWPT) CEO Sarah Brown and Board Director Marlene Spencer talk about getting their organisation started and why it was so important for Pintupi people to start their own service. WDNWPT was started using funds raised by a large auction of Pintupi people’s paintings at the Art Gallery of NSW which raised over $1 million dollars.