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Improving Indigenous Australian Governance: The how and what of capacity strengthening
In this paper, capacity strengthening will be pragmatically explored in response to two key questions: what enabling approaches are accessible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian (hereafter Indigenous) organisations to effectively make governance decisions; and what approaches can facilitate partnership processes between communities and governments for improving Indigenous Australian organisational governance. In particular, it will consider 1) the need to strengthen both hard capacities such as resources, technical skills, functions, structures, equipment and so forth; and soft capacities such as values, morale, engagement, motivation, incentives and staff wellbeing; and 2) one strategy that has successfully been used to facilitate partnership between Indigenous organisations and governments - reflective participatory approaches. It will draw from reflective short case study examples in which the authors have participated to demonstrate how, where and when capacity strengthening principles have been adopted. Given the paucity of well-designed evaluations, key principles and practices that appear to work to strengthen capacity will be discussed. Key amongst these are community ownership of governance improvement, collaborative development approaches that are context-dependent and long-term partnerships between government agencies and Indigenous communities built on trust and respect. Capacity-strengthening must have a clear notion of what type of capacity is being strengthened, for whom, and how the effectiveness will be measured.