The Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is aimed at researching best practice Indigenous decision-making and dispute management systems and building on Indigenous skills and approaches in these areas to develop training for Indigenous peoples.
In developing Indigenous governance approaches, including decision-making and dispute management processes in Indigenous communities, there has been a tendency to transplant processes from the non-Indigenous context. This paper argues that developing localised approaches to decision-making and dispute management that are responsive to the needs of Indigenous communities is essential, particularly as the approaches which are adopted can escalate or exacerbate fundamental pressures and tensions within Indigenous groups. The ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness and consequences of the range of processes which are implemented is also critical. This is particularly the case, given that the emphasis of the amended Native Title Act 1993 is on agreement-making and maximising ‘outcomes’ through non-adversarial and collaborative alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and facilitation.
This paper emphasises that in order to get ‘outcomes’, the first thing is to get the process right. This includes ensuring that appropriately authorised locally based Indigenous decision-making and representative processes are core components of effective and sustainable collaborative and co-operative efforts.