Understanding history and culture

Wednesday, 01 October 2014


    The Company Directors Course for Indigenous Business Leaders continues to meet the unique needs of communities in Western Australia.

    As Company Directors’ continues to break new ground in policy and programs that foster good governance practice in Australian business, one niche area that has been receiving steady support and delivering results has been the promotion of good governance with indigenous communities in Western Australia.

    Company Directors has been working with these communities to deliver the Company Directors Course for Indigenous Business Leaders (CDCIL) since 2011. Attendees from organisations such as Kuruma Marthudunera Ltd, MG Corporation, Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi Foundation Ltd, Peedac Pty Ltd, and Wila Gutharra have all benefited from this course, which has been designed specifically for the directors, senior executives and leaders of indigenous organisations.

    Company Directors’ WA education manager, Erin Timu, attributes the success of the courses to the engagement and passion shown by participants and course facilitators. “Although we promote good governance practices across all sectors, it is important that we acknowledge the unique issues and challenges of our indigenous organisations. For us to be the leaders of indigenous governance professional development, we need to ensure our programs are insightful, relevant, practical and delivered in a style and format that resonates with the groups.”

    The course is meeting a very real and growing need in indigenous communities. As part of the native title negotiations of recent past and in the future, the responsible stewardship of the communities’ compensation for their land, for example, is something that indigenous business leaders are acutely aware of, along with the need to meet stakeholders’ expectations for good governance practices. Likewise, elders from indigenous communities are actively involved in learning how good business governance helps ensure the longevity of the businesses that bring benefits to their community. 

    Past participants, Jacinta Mack and Kate George GAICD have benefited from attending the course, highlighting the transformational nature of the course experience. For Jacinta Mack, “strengthened best practice within our expanding corporate entities is only one of the many benefits that we now experience as more of our directors complete the CDCIL.”

    Individuals experience their own personal development when participating as well, says Kate George, board member of Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service. “From a personal point of view, this course has significantly and favourably impacted my ability to confidently address many governance issues I have encountered.”

    The development experienced as part of the course is not simply the province of the participants however. Facilitators who deliver the program are, reciprocally, learning from their involvement as the participants’ sharing of experiences reveals how unique indigenous communities are and how business management in their context is very much impacted by indigenous culture and history.

    For Graham Addison FAICD, director of finance advisory firm Graham Addison & Associates, the program works well, not just because of the content that is delivered, but because of the respectfulness that both facilitators and participants bring each day.  “We aim to create a non-threatening environment where participants feel safe to participate actively. We conduct the program with sensitivity and respect for this complex and very different culture and we, the facilitators, are privileged to be richly rewarded with reciprocal learning.”

    According to David Evans FAICD, director at consulting firm DAE Strategic, the rewards come through “indigenous directors and executives openly sharing their individual backgrounds, experiences and culture during the course.” Evans also notes that the unique challenges for indigenous boards include communication and alignment with their communities’ expectations. “This is probably not a lot different to other boards,” says Evans, “but it is further complicated in the indigenous environment by historical and cultural issues.”

    With their experience as directors on indigenous boards, the course facilitators are aware of, and understand, the cultural subtleties and expressions used in everyday conversation in the boardroom and the community. This experience ensures that they tailor their facilitation style to engage more effectively with participants to cover key concepts.

    The course now features an indigenous corporation case study that enhances learning outcomes for participating organisations.  As a facilitator, Evans has found the case study adds to the impact of the program as “it mirrors a composite of actual Aboriginal organisations and general decisions, as well as common issues they face. Participants can relate to the various scenarios discussed.”

    The next course is scheduled for 24-28 November 2014. Contact Company Directors’  WA state office, or log in to the website and visit the course calendar to find out more: http://www.companydirectors.com.au/Courses

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