Indigenous organisations in Australia are regulated by state governments through well-understood and institutionally embedded mechanisms of corporate governance. Effective corporate governance is important to Indigenous corporation success, but corporate governance compliance is only one factor in the success of Indigenous corporations. Therefore, this research, initiated and funded through the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, undertakes exploratory research aiming to understand and better support the factors that contribute to Indigenous corporation success ‘beyond compliance’.
The research is pursued through an interpretive methodological approach and established social science methods consisting of literature review, key informant interviews, and exploratory case studies. These methods are complemented, for range and depth, with a series of ‘Governance Insights’ taking the form of micro-studies of governance experiences or innovations in corporations and thematically organised insights from advisors or consultants to corporations as well as other experts in the sector. Data from all sources are analysed for themes bearing on the research aims. The research follows the AIATSIS Code of Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research and received ethical approval from The University of Queensland. Possibilities for further research are presented in the final section of the report.
The research finds that understanding and supporting the factors that contribute to Indigenous corporation success requires engaging with the position of Indigenous corporations at the interface of interactions between two peoples and governance traditions. Indigenous corporations are necessarily intercultural institutions that are often sites for the interaction of divergent values, processes, and practices. It is therefore crucial to recognise Indigenous governance and cultural values, and grapple with the relationship between Indigenous governance and mainstream corporate governance. The relationship between and relative influence of these forms of governance is highly varied across organisations depending on context and corporation purpose. It therefore cannot be prescribed. Corporation success nonetheless appears to be frequently linked with clarity about values and purpose, the integration of Indigenous cultural values and governance with mainstream corporate governance, and the absence of excessive burdens and demands. Other factors which seem to contribute to corporation success include the strength of relationships within the organisation and with community (which often links to cultural matters), capacity to harness Indigenous governance and cultural values, and ability to manage conflict. Because Indigenous corporations often operate under excessive pressures and expectations relative to their capacities, support for these factors is also crucial.