Contested Governance

Contested Governance

Culture, power and institutions in Indigenous Australia

Edited by: Janet Hunt, Diane Smith, Stephanie Garling, Will Sanders

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It is gradually being recognised by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians that getting contemporary Indigenous governance right is fundamental to improving Indigenous well-being and generating sustained socioeconomic development. This collection of papers examines the dilemmas and challenges involved in the Indigenous struggle for the development and recognition of systems of governance that they recognise as both legitimate and effective. The authors highlight the nature of the contestation and negotiation between Australian governments, their agents, and Indigenous groups over the appropriateness of different governance processes, values and practices, and over the application of related policy, institutional and funding frameworks within Indigenous affairs.

The long-term, comparative study reported in this monograph has been national in coverage, and community and regional in focus. It has pulled together a multidisciplinary team to work with partner communities and organisations to investigate Indigenous governance arrangements–the processes, structures, scales, institutions, leadership, powers, capacities, and cultural foundations–across rural, remote and urban settings.

This ethnographic case study research demonstrates that Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance systems are intercultural in respect to issues of power, authority, institutions and relationships. It documents the intended and unintended consequences–beneficial and negative–arising for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians from the realities of contested governance. The findings suggest that the facilitation of effective, legitimate governance should be a policy, funding and institutional imperative for all Australian governments.

This research was conducted under an Australian Research Council Linkage Project, with Reconciliation Australia as Industry Partner.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Oct 2008
CAEPR Monograph No. 29
ANU Press
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR)
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR)
Social Sciences: Indigenous Studies, Social Policy & Administration

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Contested Governance »

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  1. Understanding Indigenous Australian governance—research, theory and representations (PDF, 201KB)Diane Smith and Janet Hunt doi

Part 1. The governance environment

  1. Between a rock and a hard place: self-determination, mainstreaming and Indigenous community governance (PDF, 143KB)Janet Hunt doi
  2. Constraints on researchers acting as change agents (PDF, 120KB)Sarah Holcombe doi

Part 2. Culture, power and the intercultural

  1. Cultures of governance and the governance of culture: transforming and containing Indigenous institutions in West Arnhem Land (PDF, 806KB)Diane Smith doi
  2. Whose governance, for whose good? The Laynhapuy Homelands Association and the neo-assimilationist turn in Indigenous policy (PDF, 852KB)Frances Morphy doi
  3. Regenerating governance on Kaanju homelands (PDF, 207KB)Benjamin Richard Smith doi

Part 3. Institutions of Indigenous governance

  1. Different governance for difference: the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (PDF, 291KB)Jon Altman doi
  2. The business of governing: building institutional capital in an urban enterprise (PDF, 460KB)Diane Smith doi
  3. Indigenous leaders and leadership: agents of networked governance (PDF, 443KB)Bill Ivory doi

Part 4. Contesting cultural geographies of governance

  1. Noongar Nation (PDF, 221KB)Manuhuia Barcham doi
  2. Regionalism that respects localism: the Anmatjere Community Government Council and beyond (PDF, 938KB)Will Sanders doi

Part 5. Rebuilding governance

  1. Incorporating cattle: governance and an Aboriginal pastoral enterprise (PDF, 168KB)Christina Lange doi
  2. Mapping expectations around a ‘governance review’ exercise of a West Kimberley organisation (PDF, 268KB)Kathryn Thorburn doi

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