Mick Gooda,Social Justice Commissioner
“Give us a chance to take control – effective Aboriginal governance must start with us, with our peoples and our communities”
Mick Gooda, Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, today launched his 2012 Social Justice and Native Title Reports in Sydney
In the Social Justice and Native Title Reports looks at a range of development that have occurred during the reporting period (1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012).
A key theme of both reports is what constitutes effective governance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Commissioner Gooda acknowledges that over past decades there has been a failure to appropriately support governance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
In his reports, Commissioner Gooda calls for a new approach; an approach that supports, enables and empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to determine their own futures.
“In order for a community to achieve its aims, the governance structures of that community must be culturally relevant and meaningful.”
“For Indigenous governance to be effective it is not enough to import foreign governance structures into communities and expect that those communities will be able to function effectively within those structures,” said Commissioner Gooda.
Commissioner Gooda looks closely at the Northern Territory and the damage caused by ill-conceived government action. The Northern Territory is a poignant illustration of how government action diminishes the capacity of communities to determine and address their specific needs.
“The period since 2007 has been one of great upheaval in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Local government reforms coincided with the Northern Territory intervention and together were felt by communities as one assault.”
“The extent and regularity of imposed change faced by remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities has unsettled the governance structures and shifted decision-making responsibility from communities to centralised government institutions.”
“The Local Government reforms removed Community Council structures while the intervention also dismantled existing structures and organisations in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,” said Commissioner Gooda.
“To leave people feeling like they have no control over their lives has a real human impact as highlighted in the Northern Territory in the last 5 years. We know from national and international research that disempowerment results in ill health and even increased suicide rates.”
Drawing on the extensive existing research, Commissioner Gooda articulates a three pronged framework for the effective governance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
First, the foundation of the framework is community governance and self-determination.
“Effective Indigenous governance must start with us – with our peoples and our communities
We need to take control of the running of our own communities.”
The second aspect is effective organisational governance. The third aspect of the framework is the importance of government and other external influences.
“We know from decades of research, that government can and often does have a determinative impact on communities’ ability to achieve their aims,” said Commissioner Gooda.
“Government typically does not have the necessary skills and cultural competency to engage effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There have been many reports detailing the impacts of this lack of capacity. Further, funding is often provided on a short-term basis and the requirements of government agencies are often onerous in proportion to the amounts of funding available or provided.”
“Where government plays the right role in the governance framework, that is, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to govern themselves, great things happen.”
“I am constantly impressed by the creativeness and commitment of our communities and groups within communities to finding solutions to the range of complex challenges we face. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities achieve these success stories all the time, often in the face of significant obstacles, and I have included a number of these in my reports,” said Commissioner Gooda.
Full reports available online at:
Social Justice Report http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport12/index.html
Native Title Report http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nt_report/ntreport12/index.html
Media contact: Emily Barker 0419 258 597