Good Governance for Indigenous Australians
15 April 2002 at 1:04 pm
The National Indigenous Governance Conference in Canberra this month saw some straight talking about issues of good governance for Australian Aborigines involving both government and community.
The high powered conference was convened by the Not for Profit organisation Reconciliation Australia, the National Institute for Governance at the University of Canberra and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission (ATSIC) and was officially opened by the former Governor general, Sir William Deane.
Sir William said while the conference would look at both current efforts of both Governments and private institutions and individuals to encourage and support responsible and effective governance in indigenous communities, he ventured that participants would be conscious of a constant backdrop of past governmental failure in many areas including governance.
Sir William took a more controversial step in saying that perhaps more important for the purposes of the conference, it was well and truly timely that the nation recognises that it has a duty in justice and decency to do whatever is necessary to overcome the devastating and appalling problems faced by indigenous people.
He said Australia must do everything necessary to help indigenous Australians develop effective and adequately resourced governance.
He said this must also include education systems in their communities that can enable and empower them to address and resolve the terrible problems that oppress their peoples.
Speakers including indigenous leaders as well as governance experts from Australia and around the world addressed the three-day conference.
The Director General of the NSW Dept. of Aboriginal Affairs, Linda Burney told the conference that the fragility of community governance and leadership in some indigenous groups is alarming.
Burney said that very often at the community level, the responsibility and skills rest with a coupe of people and if you take them out of the equation, the whole thing falls over.
She said the challenge is to discover what good governance and capacity means in places like Burke or Coffs Harbour or Campbeltown and then to be guided by the people in those communities.
The conference saw many examples of good governance in indigenous communities.
Sam Jeffries, the chairperson of the Murdi Paaki Regional Council told delegates of its achievement of good governance in accordance with the goals of its strategic plan.
Jeffries says his community takes a practical approach to good governance through existing institutional arrangements.
Diane Smith from ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research said good community governance is not only about legitimacy, genuine decision-making powers, institutions and accountability; it is also about resources.
Smith said this requires sustained access to and authority over financial, economic, social and natural resources and technology.
She said without an effected resource capacity for governance, there is unlikely to be sustained economic development in indigenous communities.
If you attended the conference and would like to add you comments to the discussion why not join our on-line Forum at probonoaustralia.com.au.