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The Australian National University

Building Indigenous community governance in Australia: Preliminary research findings

Working Paper 31 / 2006


This is a preliminary research report from the first year of fieldwork conducted by the Indigenous Community Governance Project (ICGP). The Project is exploring the nature of Indigenous community governance in diverse contexts and locations across Australia through a series of diverse case studies—to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and why. A comparative analysis of the Project’s case studies is revealing that governance and decision-making in Indigenous community governance is shaped by multiple historical, cultural and political relationships. Family and governance histories associated with particular communities and sets of regionally-linked communities are central features in community governance dynamics and arrangements. Strengthening Indigenous community governance requires negotiating appropriate contemporary relationships among the different Indigenous people within a region or community, and adapting or creating structures and processes to reflect important relationships. Several dimensions are being identified as being fundamental to building stronger, sustainable governance at the community and regional levels. These are the impact of the wider ‘governance environment’, cultural match and cultural geography, modes of leadership and representation, institutional capacity, organisational design and relationships, representation, decision-making processes, and human resource issues. Capacity development for governance needs to be considered within a systems framework and should be a process that actively strengthens Indigenous decision-making and control over their core institutions, goals and identity, and that enhances cultural match and legitimacy. The report concludes with some emerging issues and implications for policy makers and for Indigenous organisations and their leaders.

Ten Key Messages from the Preliminary Findings of the Indigenous Community Governance Project, 2005

An associated document  'Ten Key Messages from the Preliminary Findings of the Indigenous Community Governance Project, 2005', which summarises the findings of Working Paper 31, is also available below.

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