Strengthening family engagement and decision making in Traditional Owner corporations

Thursday, 7 June 2018
Toni Bauman
Janine Coombs
Marcus Stewart
Sally Smith
Dr Belinda Burbidge

Strong engagement with members is a foundation of Traditional Owner corporations and their governance, yet it can be challenging and is often under resourced. This session explores two family engagement projects led by Traditional Owner corporations in Victoria: Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) and Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (TCAC).

The processes which were adopted could be easily adopted by others around Australia, including PBCs and NTRB/SPs to ensure they are best benefiting from strong community participation and feedback.

The family engagement model was developed and trialled by BGLC in partnership with Right People for Country Program (RPfC) in 2015. BGLC wanted to be confident that as many traditional owners as possible had information about the opportunities in the renegotiation of its 2005 native title agreements under the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act.

BGLC also wanted to hear from family members about what had been keeping families away from the corporation, what it could do to help families re-engage, and the hopes and aspirations of families for the future.

BGLC undertook a series of facilitated family meetings, after which reports of the meetings were de-identified and collated into a draft engagement report that was workshopped with the BGLC Board. This resulted in the BGLC Board implementing an engagement plan which over time has proved highly successful.
Inspired by BGLC’s family engagement process, TCAC partnered with RPfC and AIATSIS to undertake its own family engagement process in 2017. Prior to commencement of the series of family meetings, a model for information management and ownership was developed to ensure both Traditional Owner expectations and legal requirements were met. The TCAC family meetings were also expanded to seek advice on the development of a TCAC decision making guide. This parallel project will result in a plain English guide that ensures that TCAC members and others with Taungurung affiliations understand how TCAC’s decision making processes work.
In this session, facilitated by Sally Smith, RPfC Manager, Janine Coombs (BGLC) and Jill Webb (FNLRS) will first describe the BGLC family engagement process. Marcus Stewart and Toni Bauman will discuss the TCAC engagement process and the development of locally tailored and culturally appropriate decision-making materials.

Belinda Burbidge will discuss the management of information.

Time permitting, the session will conclude with a facilitated discussion on cultural governance.