8.3 Disputes and complaints about governance
“Misunderstanding and misinformation is a major contributor to conflict.”
(Toni Bauman, 2007, Indigenous Law Bulletin Vol 6, No 29)
Many grievances and disputes arise from governance arrangements themselves and can involve multiple parties.
For example, conflict may occur:
- within the membership of a nation, community or organisation
- within an organisation’s own governing body, staff and management
- between organisations or leaders
- between a group and an organisation
- with external stakeholders or other parties.
8.3.1 Governance hotspots for conflict and complaints.
8.3.2 What happens if hotspot disputes are not addressed?
Effective governance involves stewardship—that means being able to lead on behalf of all your members in a way that safeguards and promotes the exercise of their collective and individual rights and interests.
Effective governance also means being able to plan, organise, delegate and give direction.
If your dispute resolution policies and procedures have not been developed, are not well understood or are not enforced:
- the effectiveness and legitimacy of your governance arrangements may be undermined, if not permanently eroded
- your organisation and group as a whole may be brought into public disrepute
- the members of your own nation and community may be ripped apart for generations
- your external funding and partnerships may be withdrawn.
Decisions about disputes and complaints should not be based on particular family connections, a single leader’s opinion or a romanticised view of how things may have been done in the past.
It is important to develop approaches that not only respect and reinvigorate cultural values but that can also work successfully in the practical situations people face today.
8.3.3 A quick conflict analysis tool
“We are strong. We talk about things together. If there are mistakes or any problems we find out what the problems are first and work out what to do. We work out what to do together.”
(Gloria Mengil, Director Waringarri Arts Aboriginal Corporation,
Application to Indigenous Governance Awards, 2012)
Before leaping in to fix a problem, it is useful to step back and get the facts.
The first step is to understand what the dispute or complaint is about, who is involved, the history behind it, and the nature of the interests and rights involved.
From there you can move on to consider what agreed values, rules and goals might inform your process and outcomes.
What can we do? A conflict analysis tool
This tool will help groups and organisations understand the causes of a conflict or complaint, consider the range of views, values and actions involved, and then think about ways to deal with the issue based on those understandings and agreed rules.