About governance

What is governance?

Governance is about how people choose to collectively organise themselves to manage their own affairs, share power and responsibilities, decide for themselves what kind of society they want for their future, and implement those decisions. More information is available on the Indigenous Governance Toolkit website.

Corporate governance

Corporate governance defines how corporations are run and includes all the systems and processes put in place to control and monitor their operations, to maintain their values and realise their aims and objectives. Corporate governance is dependent on both, having an effective governance structure in place, and the performance and values of the people responsible for running a corporation (see Good Governance Principles and Guidance by the Australian Institute of Company Directors).

A corporation’s governance structure should clearly set out who has the authority to make important decisions and outline the roles and responsibilities of different people, such as members, directors, chief executive officers, managers and staff. Accountability to a corporation’s members and staff, as well as to stakeholders such as funding bodies, regulatory authorities and the public are also important features of good corporate governance.

Indigenous governance

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have their own concepts, systems and processes for effective governance that were in place before British sovereignty. Indigenous governance could be described as the unique ways in which Indigenous people come together to make decisions and engage in cultural, economic and social activities. There are many different Indigenous communities throughout Australia, with their own cultural and historical backgrounds, however there are some characteristics that some groups may have in common. These may include cultural institutions, organisation into family or clan based groups, cultural protocols regarding decision making, and the important role that leaders play.

Written by Michael Cawthorn, consultant anthropologist.

The Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation experience

The Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation manages native title rights for the Eastern Maar Peoples, which includes people who identify as Maar, Eastern Gunditjmara, Tjap Wurrung, Peek Whurrong, Kirrae Whurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot and/or Yarro waetch (Tooram Tribe). Jamie Lowe of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation says no matter if you have money coming in or not you can still facilitate the needs of your people and country.

The Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation experience

The Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation (FWCAC) manages the Far West Coast land as belonging to the Far West Coast Peoples. FWCAC represents 6 distinct cultural groups of Aboriginal people: Mirning Peoples, The descendants of Edward Roberts, Wirangu Peoples, Yalata Peoples, Kokatha Peoples and Maralinga Tjaratja (Oak Valley) Peoples. April Lawrie and Peter Miller of FWCAC in Ceduna speak about the history of their corporation going through change and dispute but achieving the common goals of native title determination.

Further resources