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The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) was incorporated on 29 May 2012. AIGI is the product of years of research, debate, consultation and intensive lobbying by those who believed in its vision. Here is a brief account of some of the significant moments in our development.
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 detailed research into the conditions and future opportunities of Indigenous governance in Australia, and recommendations for how Indigenous governance building could be supported.
In response to the forum’s request, Reconciliation Australia and the Centre for Aboriginal Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University (ANU) received funding from the Australian Research Council to do research in remote, rural and urban locations. The ICGP received additional funding support from the Federal, West Australian and Northern Territory governments.
To rebuild and reinvigorate Indigenous governance, the ICGP’s extensive field research pinpointed the need for government policy and funding frameworks in parallel with Indigenous access to:
- high-quality governance information
- organisational and developmental tools
- sustained facilitation expertise
- place-based capacity-building.
This combination was seen as critical to supporting Indigenous nations, communities and organisations in rebuilding their governance.
To achieve this goal in a coordinated way, the ICGP recommended establishing an Australian Indigenous governance institute. For more information, see the CAEPR website.
This recommendation prompted a subsequent scoping project, commissioned by Reconciliation Australia and Social Ventures Australia (SVA). With funding from SVA, Jodie Sizer from Ingenuity Australia lead the consultation process, with support from independent consultant Tanya Hosch. The consultation process was designed to consider:
- the level of support in Australia for an Indigenous governance institute
- the potential roles the institute would undertake
- possible operational models and further considerations for establishing an institute
Completed in February 2009, the ‘Report on the Consultation on the Australian Institute for Indigenous Governance’ provided a ‘green light’ for the establishment of AIGI.
Following 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 developing a strategy to guide the path forward.
Chaired by Professor Mick Dodson (then co-chair of Reconciliation Australia), with Deputy Chair Jason Glanville (CEO of National Centre of Indigenous Excellence), under the auspices of both Reconciliation Australia and SVA, the steering committee has comprised at various times well-known and active professionals in the Indigenous governance space up until its incorporation. These include:
- Leah Armstrong, then CEO of Reconciliation Australia
- Dr Diane Smith, anthropologist and governance researcher
- Jane Pound, then Legal Counsel, Foundation for Young Australians
Tanya Hosch – who was involved in advocating Indigenous governance issues – was seconded from the steering committee in 2011 to work as project director. Tanya played an instrumental role in establishing AIGI and securing further funds.
In 2010, the steering committee commissioned a more detailed business case for AIGI. Completed by Jodie Sizer of Ingenuity Australia in late 2010, the business case outlined what was needed to establish AIGI.
AIGI was formally incorporated on 29 May 2012, and these members of the steering committee became inaugural board members.
- Professor Mick Dodson, then Director, ANU National Centre for Indigenous Studies
- Jason Glanville, CEO of National Centre for Indigenous Excellence
- Jodie Sizer, then Director, Ingenuity Australia
- Tanya Hosch, then Deputy Campaign Director, Recognise
- Dr Diane Smith, anthropologist and governance researcher
- Jane Pound, then Legal Counsel, Foundation for Young Australians.
Since the development of the initial business case, AIGI has made significant progress 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:
- securing preliminary funding from the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund and the Annamila Foundation
- engaging Jason Eades of Eades Consulting Group
- commissioning branding for a marketing strategy and logo
- developing AIGI’s initial policies and guidelines, including a board governance charter and vision (with assistance from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills)
- working with various government departments, including FAHCSIA and Infrastructure Australia, to secure grant funding
- securing significant philanthropic funding to help develop a website and operational capacity
- 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.
In 2017, AIGI secured a 5-year funding agreement with the BHP Foundation. This agreement has enabled AIGI to build the foundations as a small not-for-profit organisation providing governance excellence support.
The key strategic priorities in our new Strategic Plan 2022–2027 include:
- To increase the quality of resources
- To increase the quality of capability strengthening options
- To strengthen and expand partnerships with stakeholders who share our values and commitments
- To secure a sustainable future
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