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Spotlight on good Indigenous governance

David Prestipino -

The Productivity Commission's recent Closing the Gap review challenged the federal government's plan to fundamentally reconfigure how they engage with First Nations organisations.

Indigenous governance was crucial to addressing the reform task set by the Commission's recent report, with the necessary work in its infancy.

The Commission's scathing assessment noted it had "yet to identify a government organisation that has articulated a clear vision for what transformation looks like".

First Nations organisations and projects that resemble what good governance in the Indigenous business sector looks like will be rewarded at the 2024 Indigenous Governance Awards, with applications now open for businesses.

Now in its 19th year, the awards publicly recognise and celebrate outstanding Indigenous-led organisations and projects that, through effective governance models, have made extraordinary contributions to communities and the nation.

Organisations that meet this criterion are encouraged to apply, with prizes including corporate mentoring, media and networking opportunities and a share in $60,000.

CEO of 2022 category two winners Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council, John Reidy, said the experience of winning an IGA changed everything for the organisation.

"After being in administration for years, there was a lack of faith from funding bodies and potential partners in our organisation's capacity for financial management, but once we won the award, everything changed," he said.

"The IGA were fundamental to that change, as winning encouraged them to have another look at us and we now have strong partnerships and collaborations with local and national agencies."

The awards are held every two years in partnership with Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute and the BHP Foundation.

Reconciliation Australia policy, research and strategic programs general manager, Katie Moore, said the awards were especially crucial for organisations such as Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council who don't usually have their profile recognised in a modern contemporary component.

"The awards are also a way for us to build a network for finalists to partner with, and use our sphere of influence to reward good governance in the Indigenous business sector," she told NIT.

She said good governance and self-determination was essential to ensuring community aspirations were respected, no matter the organisation or business.

"The narrative on Indigenous businesses is no different [to non-Indigenous], as are having systems in place to meet community needs and company aspirations," she said.

"The awards will be a good showcase of what our community-based organisations and First Nations businesses are doing right to meet this interesting times we live in."

There are three award categories celebrating outstanding examples of governance:

Category One: Indigenous-led non-incorporated initiatives or projects

Category Two: FN-led small to med incorporated organisations (under $1m annual revenue)

Category Three: Large Indigenous-led incorporated organisations ($1 million and over annual revenue)

Winners in each category receive $20,000 and development and engagement opportunities as part of the prize.

More information on applications and nominations are available online. The deadline is Friday March 15.

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