9.3 Governance for sustained development
“The challenge for traditional owners, like the Yawuru, is how do we, as a people, leverage our native title rights so as to promote our own resilience and reliable prosperity in the modern world?” (Patrick Dodson, presentation for ‘Common Roots, Common Futures: Different Paths to Self-determination—An international Conversation’, University of Arizona, 2012)
“Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.”(Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 1999)
“The top 500 Indigenous corporations hold a total of $1.22 billion in assets. [They] add significant value to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, functioning across a wide range of sectors, and employing over 9,100 people nationally.They also make a significant contribution… to the Australian economy, through income generation, employment and the provision of services.”(A. Bevan, ORIC Registrar, The Top 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations, 2010)
The MWG working together for the whole community
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 discuss how the family groups put their differences aside to work together for the whole community.
9.3.1 What is development and why is governance important?
The mounting evidence from national and international research indicates that having effective and legitimate governance is a ‘development enabler’.
In other words, it pays to invest in your governance.
While it is important, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations do not need to have legislated rights or treaties in order to be able to undertake sustained development.
However a critical factor is having governance arrangements that are capable of putting self-determination into successful practice, and so your members can be fully engaged in considering their options for the future.
Definition: Development is change or transformation that makes life better in ways that people want. It can take a variety of forms, including growth in traditional subsistence activities to increased participation in market economies; from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurship to joint ventures with non-Indigenous corporations; from collective nation, community and clan enterprises to small individual and family cottage industries.
Development is sustainable when it ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (The World Commission on Environment and Development’s Brutland Report).
As such, it involves value judgements about the preferred direction and speed of change.
For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the internal ‘test’ of sustainability in their development initiatives involves coming up with answers to a set of difficult questions, including:
- What kind of future are we trying to build, not only for ourselves but for the next generations?
- What kinds of governance arrangements might be acceptable and consented to now, and will remain acceptable to our people in the future?
- What role should our collective culture play in our governance arrangements and economic initiatives, and how might that change over time?
- Who should benefit from economic development, and will the benefits of current development still be available for future generations?
- What kinds of development will help us maximise self-determination in the long run?
Effective governance enables a nation to be able to properly consider these questions, and to then prioritise, plan and implement their solutions.
9.3.2 Governing capabilities needed for development
Extensive research suggests there are several important governance capabilities that are needed in order to get successful development happening.