The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute is a national centre of governance excellence, connecting Indigenous Australians to world-class governance practice, informing effective policy, providing accessible research, disseminating stories that celebrate outstanding success and solutions, and delivering professional development opportunities to meet the self-determined governance needs of Indigenous people.

The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute was incorporated on the 29 May 2012. It is the product of years of research, debate, consultation and intensive lobbying by those who believed in its vision. The following is a brief account of some of the significant moments towards the development of AIGI.

The Indigenous Governance Forum (2001)

In 2001, Reconciliation Australia hosted an international “Indigenous Governance Conference” in Canberra. The aim was to discuss what works in building effective governance on the ground, what doesn’t work and why. The forum recommended that detailed research into the conditions and future opportunities of Indigenous Governance in Australia and make recommendations as to how Indigenous governance building could be supported.

Indigenous Community Governance (ICG) Research Paper (2002-2008)

In response to the forum’s request, Reconciliation Australia and the Centre for Aboriginal Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University obtained funding from the Australian Research Council to undertake the necessary research in remote, rural and urban locations. The Indigenous Community Research Project received additional funding support from the Commonwealth, West Australian and Northern Territory governments.

To rebuild and reinvigorate Indigenous governance, the ICG Project’s extensive field research pinpointed the need for Indigenous access to high-quality governance information, organisational and developmental tools, sustained facilitation expertise, and place-based capacity-building. This would be in parallel with enabling government policy and funding frameworks. Such a combination was seen as critical to supporting Indigenous nations, communities and organisations in rebuilding their governance.

In order to achieve this goal in a coordinated way, the ICG Project recommended the creation of an Australian Indigenous Institute of Governance ¹. The aims of the Institute would be to:

  • foster, encourage, communicate and disseminate best practice in Indigenous governance and design; 
  • encourage, facilitate and, where practicable, collaborate with relevant bodies at the national, state, territory and local levels to develop practical, culturally-informed educational and training materials, tools and resources to support the delivery of governance and organisational development at the local level; 
  • facilitate and implement the development of ‘train the governance trainer’ and mentoring courses, particularly targeted at developing a sustainable pool of Indigenous people with the requisite professional skills; and 
  • commission and undertake applied research to support those functions.’ ²

The consultation process commences (2008)

This recommendation prompted a subsequent scoping project, commissioned by Reconciliation Australia and Social Ventures Australia (SVA). With funding from SVA, Ms Jodie Sizer from Ingenuity Australia was engaged to lead the consultation process with support from independent consultant Ms Tanya Hosch. The consultation process was designed to consider:

  1. the level of support in Australia for an Indigenous governance institute;
  2. the potential roles AIGI would undertake; and
  3. possible operational models and further considerations for establishing an AIGI.

Wide-ranging consultations were undertaken as a part of this process during 2008 with Indigenous community leaders and representatives, persons with existing expertise in the governance sector including researchers and consultants, and representatives from the government and private sectors.

Completed in February 2009, the ‘Report on the Consultation on the Australian Institute for Indigenous Governance’ (Jodie Sizer) provided a ‘green light’ for the establishment of AIGI, indicating strong support by the majority of stakeholders from each of the consulted groups. The report presented eight recommendations as to the future role and functions of AIGI, and provided direction as to its establishment.

The recommendations received welcome support from the Australian Coordinator-General in his quarterly report which stated that:

‘active consideration should also be given to resourcing an independent centre of excellence for Indigenous governance to develop best practice, disseminate education and training material, train governance trainers, develop mentoring programs, parent with key stakeholders, and undertake and commission research.’³

Establishment of the steering committee (2008)

Following the completion of the consultation report, a steering committee was formed late in 2008 to help drive the AIGI concept by raising awareness of Indigenous governance issues, negotiating partnerships and funds, and through the development of a strategy to guide the path forward.

Chaired by Professor Mick Dodson (co-chair of Reconciliation Australia), with Jason Glanville (now Director of NCIE and Board Director of Reconciliation Australia) as Deputy Chair, and under the auspices of both Reconciliation Australia and Social Ventures Australia, the steering committee has comprised at various times well-known and active professionals in the Indigenous governance space up until its incorporation.  These include:

  • Professor Mick Dodson, Director, ANU National Centre for Indigenous Studies
  • Jason Glanville, CEO of National Centre for Indigenous Excellence
  • Leah Armstrong, CEO of Reconciliation Australia
  • Jodie Sizer, Director, Ingenuity Australia
  • Tanya Hosch, Deputy Campaign Director, Recognise
  • Dr Diane Smith, Anthropologist and governance researcher
  • Jane Pound, Legal Counsel, Foundation for Young Australians (formerly Director Victoria, Social Ventures Australia).

Tanya Hosch, who had been heavily involved in advocating Indigenous governance issues, was seconded from the steering committee in 2011 to work as project director and played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Institute and securing further funds.

Development of the Business Case (2010)

In 2010, the steering committee commissioned the development of a more detailed business case for AIGI. Completed by Jodie Sizer of Ingenuity Australia in late 2010, the Business Case provided the foundation needed for the establishment of AIGI and outlined a number of key steps necessary to achieve this. This included potential organisational structures, project partners and objectives for AIGI.

The important step of formal incorporation of AIGI was achieved on 29 May 2012, and the following members of the steering committee agreed to take on the role of inaugural Board members.

  • Professor Mick Dodson, Director, ANU National Centre for Indigenous Studies
  • Jason Glanville, CEO of National Centre for Indigenous Excellence
  • Jodie Sizer, Director, Ingenuity Australia
  • Tanya Hosch, Deputy Campaign Director, Recognise
  • Dr Diane Smith, Anthropologist and governance researcher
  • Jane Pound, Legal Counsel, Foundation for Young Australians.

Business Plan and progress thus far (2011 – present)

Since the development of the initial Business Case, AIGI has made significant inroads towards its vision. With the goal of securing the long term sustainability of the organisation, the steering committee took a considered approach to maturity, including an incremental approach to establishment involving:

  • securing funding from the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund to engage a project director to assist in formerly structuring and establishing the organisation;
  • engaging Jason Eades of Eades Consulting Group to provide advice and guidance throughout the development process;
  • commissioning branding for the creation of a marketing strategy and logo;
  • developing (with the assistance from law firm Herbet Smith Freehills), AIGI’s initial policies and guidelines, including a board governance charter and vision;
  • working with various government departments (including FAHCSIA and Infrastructure Australia) to secure grant funding to contribute to the establishment of AIGI;
  • securing significant philanthropic funding to aid the development of a website and operational capacity for AIGI;
  • securing a long-term partnership with Reconciliation Australia for the formal handover of the Indigenous Governance Toolkit and joint partnering in the Australian Indigenous Governance Awards.

  1. ICG Year Two Research Findings, CAEPR Working Paper No 36, 2007.
  2. ibid.
  3.  Australian Coordinator General, Six Monthly Report, 2009-10, page 65.

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