Two-way governance

Two-way governance is a term used to describe how Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws are brought together in the governance systems of Indigenous organisations. Two-way governance uses both Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance practices to establish decision-making processes. Because PBCs are required to register under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act) 2006 (CATSI Act) and have obligations under various legislative regimes, such as the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA), not only do they need to practise Indigenous governance but they also need clarity on the requirements and compliance of non-Indigenous practices.

For two-way governance to be effective Aboriginal communities must have the right to set their own priorities, define their own processes of governance and make their own decisions. A lack of cultural ‘fit’ between organisational governance arrangements and the local cultural system, has often been identified as the cause of governance problems (see Productivity Commission and CAEPR). Strong and effective two-way governance practices are seen as key factors in successful Indigenous organisations.

Written by Michael Cawthorn, consultant anthropologist (updated 23.1.2021).

The Yawuru Native Title Holders Aboriginal Corporation experience

Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY) is a not for profit company owned by the Yawuru native title holders through their corporate Group structure. NBY has the responsibility to generate income from Yawuru’s capital assets; land, community, social and cultural capital. Thomas Edgar and Peter Yu from NBY speak about the governance underlying the Yawuru corporate group.

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, CEO of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, speaks about the traditional governance practices and its integration into running the corporation.

    Further resources

    Examples of two-way governance

    Many Indigenous organisations around Australia are successfully incorporating two-way governance practices into the governance of their corporations: