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Empowering Change: Self-Determination at the heart of the Indigenous Governance Forum

This year’s Indigenous Governance Forum delved into the transformative power of Indigenous governance in nation-building and community resilience.

Key discussions centred on integrating self-determination into program design, advancing community-led decision-making, and fostering youth engagement. Hayley McQuire, Co-Founder and CEO of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, alongside Indi Clarke from the First People’s Assembly of Victoria, emphasised the vital role of youth-driven governance.

“Ensuring the Indigenous community is at the heart of the decision-making process is crucial,” Clarke noted.

Connection and belonging were highlighted as pillars of a healthy community. Georgina Richters, Principal and Lead at First Nations Advisory urged Indigenous Australians to join boards where they can influence change.

“You are not there to make up numbers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People on boards must have a legitimate voice in decision-making,” she explained.

The forum also gave highlighted the importance of Indigenous knowledge in sustainability efforts. Bhiamie Eckford-Williamson, Research Fellow at Monash University, stressed the crucial role of Aboriginal knowledge in managing environmental disasters and preserving biodiversity.

“Climate change is radically recasting people’s perceptions of their place in the world,” he said.

Tricia Stroud, Registrar at the Office of Registrar of Indigenous Corporations and Bobby Maher, PhD Candidate and Research Associate at the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research, provided valuable insights into the frameworks of self-determination and Indigenous data sovereignty. Stroud spoke about the impact of Indigenous-owned and controlled corporations in service delivery and policy formation, while Maher discussed the importance of reshaping Indigenous data practices to move beyond deficit narratives.

The forum concluded with a call to action for continued collaboration and the strengthening of Indigenous governance frameworks.

“A two-world balanced governance framework works. You have to really understand the western governance framework. If you don’t understand that, you cannot influence it with your First Nations lens. But when you do that, it leads to real change,” Richters said.

The necessity of including Indigenous perspectives into all levels of governance was a key theme of the Indigenous Governance Forum 2024. By driving meaningful discussion and fostering collaboration, the forum aims to pave the way for a more equitable and sustainable future for all Australians.

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