3.2 Mapping your community for governance
“How can we know where we are headed if we don’t know where we have come from?”
(Leah Armstrong, ‘Finding Australia’s soul: rebuilding our Indigenous communities’, The Circle, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, NSW)
The governance history of your people plays a major role in determining your current arrangements and your strengths and challenges.
Working through these histories together can help you to understand present issues, and to be clear about the cultural elements from your past ways of governing that you value and want to protect and strengthen.
NPY Women’s Council on getting started
NPY Women’s Council chair Yanyi Bandicha and Co-ordinator Andrea Mason talk about how NPY got started and how the organisation works as a service delivery and advocacy organisation.
3.2.1 Back to basics: your governance history
Working together to answer the following five questions should help you understand who you are as a group and what kind of governance you want to hand on to your children.
- Who are we?
- What have we got?
- Where did we come from?
- What do we want?
- How do we get it?
1. Who are we? Who is the ‘self’ in our governance?
When you’re trying to work out what your governance strengths and challenges are, one of the best places to start is with is your own people. That means considering questions such as:
- Who are we?
- Who are members of our group?
- What are our important relationships?
- Who are our strong leaders?
- Who are we accountable to?
- Who participates in your governance?
These questions are all about identifying which nation, tribe, community, region or group you are part of, and who you are representing through your governance.
Getting some agreement or resolution about these questions is a fundamental step, right from the start.
2. Where did we come from? What’s the history of our governance?
This question is about looking back at the history of your governance and thinking about the following questions:
- What are the cultural foundations of our governance?
- How did it work in the past? How did we make decisions and work together to get things done? What kinds of rules and laws did we have? What were our leaders like and how did we settle disputes?
- What things do we really value about our past way of governing?
- What good and bad things have happened to change it over time?
3. What have we got now? What is our current governance like?
Start by looking at your current governance overall.
- What’s working?
- What’s not and why?
- What strengths, talent and experience do we have to help us build our governance?
- What weaknesses and gaps do we have in our current governance?
- What place do our cultural values and ways of governing have in our governance arrangements?
Answering these questions together will give you a clearer idea about the things you want to protect and strengthen in your governance. Understanding what you have also enables you to identify what else you need. (The quick governance health check-up will also help with this.)
4. What do we want? What will our future governance look like?
This question has to do with the goals you are trying to accomplish for the future. If you can’t see where you want to be, you won’t be able to find your way there.
- What kind of governance are we trying to build for our group, our members, our children and the generations to come?
- What do we hope will be different or better about our governance arrangements?
- What do we want to stay the same?
Answers to these questions will give you a strategic vision for your governance. This might sound like a wish list, but it will help you make choices.
5. How do we get it? What is our strategy?
This is about how you can make your future vision happen.
- What are our specific concerns and priorities?
- What plans and actions should we develop and take?
- Who will be responsible for doing it, and by when?
- What resources do we need?
- What are the risks involved and how can we deal with them?
- How we are going to tell if we are making progress and getting the outcomes we want?
It doesn’t matter if you start with small steps, as long as you have a good idea of where those steps fit into your overall governance plan and goals.
Template: Mapping your governance history
This resource lays out some basic questions and instructions for mapping your governance history. Follow these instructions and work with your leaders, nation or community members to see how your governance history is influencing the way you work today.
3.2.2 Mapping community assets for governance
Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nation, community, group and organisation can identify things it does not have (needs) and things it does have (assets). A strong group or organisation identifies and uses its assets to meet its needs. A governance asset map is one way of doing this.
This map is a snapshot that identifies and brings together information about your overall governance assets. It is written from a community perspective and often makes use of a variety of visual forms, not just text.
For example, it identifies your collective:
- knowledge, skills, talents and capacities
- resources (natural, financial, economic)
- traditional land ownership and languages
- families, kin relationships and social support networks
- leaders and decision-makers
- laws, rules and decision-making practices
- contemporary governing structures (informal committees, working groups and incorporated organisations)
- the services and programs available to your members
- wider networks, stakeholders, and government and agency funders.
Your governance asset map will help you better understand the local strengths and expertise you can call upon from your own people in order to rebuild your governance.
It will also enable you to answer some hard questions such as:
- Who really makes the important decisions within your nation or community?
- How many different leaders, organisations committees and agencies are located in your community?
- How do they influence the effectiveness of your overall governance?