Get the governance right and the rest follows

The corporate governance workshop held at Jabalbina’s office in Craiglie was a great success. All twelve of the corporation’s directors attended (left to right) Doreen Jones, Alfred Diamond, Sandra Houghton, ORIC Deputy Registrar, Joe Mastrolembo, Roslyn Port, Katrina Gibson, Andrew Solomon , EKY CEO Michael Friday, Shontell Walker, male chairperson Jason Wachter, female chairperson Robyn Bellafquih, Robert Walker, ORIC’s Bianca-Rose Gregory, Lee Yeatman and Ian Woibo

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC [ICN 7002]

Far north Queensland: What distinguishes Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC is a big heart, strong drive and a bold vision.

The corporation has over 400 members and holds native title on behalf of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji (EKY) bama (people) over a massive stretch of country (1,269 square kilometres) between Mossman and Cooktown. The area includes substantial tracts of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area more commonly known as the Daintree and asserts traditional custodial responsibility over the adjacent area of the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. Jabalbina is also the trustee of 630 square kilometres of Aboriginal freehold land and, as the body primarily responsible for representing the interests of the EKY people, it is the traditional owner party to 15 Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs).

While the corporation faces no shortage of challenges—or matters to attend to—it has strong leadership and a firm sense of its own destiny.

Jabalbina is responsible for managing 20 reserves within EKY country under the Land Act 1994 either in a sole or joint trustee arrangement. Just last year it was also registered under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 as the cultural heritage body for EKY bama’s traditional estate.

‘We are the custodians of the bubu (land) and jalun (sea),’ says Robyn Bellafquih, one of the corporation’s two newly-elected chairpersons. ‘This is what we do. We take care of the bubu and the jalun for the long-term benefit of our people.’

There’s a determination to succeed at Jabalbina and to provide the pathways for bama to return to bubu and develop sustainable enterprises so they can thrive culturally, economically and socially.

As stated in its rule book, ‘We aspire to be self-funded by exploring and developing available opportunities.’

Various ideas are under consideration—for example, setting up land and sea management projects, developing a ranger program, and starting up small bama-run businesses. What’s driving these initiatives is quite simply Jabalbina’s desire to create employment opportunities in the communities and ‘to get bama back on bubu’.

Achieving these goals will rely on many factors but one that is central, and at which the corporation is determined to do well, is running its own affairs. This means maintaining high standards of corporate governance. To that end (following the corporation’s annual general meeting in December 2011), the newly-elected directors decided to book some corporate governance training with ORIC.

‘Although our corporation is well-established and has a good record in corporate management I and the other directors wanted some new training,’ says Jason Wachter, male chairperson at Jabalbina. ‘We wanted to check we’re on the right track and learn if there were other things we could do differently to support our members.’

ORIC provided the corporate governance training in Craiglie (near Port Douglas) just a few weeks ago. ‘I applaud this corporation for approaching us,’ says Joe Mastrolembo, ORIC’s Deputy Registrar, who facilitated the training. ‘ORIC is always ready to help with corporate governance. ’

Much of the workshop was spent discussing Jabalbina’s corporate structure which is unusually complicated because it represents three different dialect groups. ‘It was a fantastic bonding experience for us as newly-appointed directors. It allowed us to get to know each other and understand our capabilities in respect to our roles as directors,’ says Robyn Bellafquih.

As the incoming EKY CEO, Michael Friday, points out, ‘The directors are incredibly committed to doing the best job possible for members and those native title holders who are yet to become members. We want to work smart, know where the opportunities lie, cooperate with government so we can secure funding and, most importantly of all, drive our own destiny.’

Good corporate governance opens the way.

In the classroom. Deputy Registrar, Joe Mastrolembo, with the group.  ‘This was an exceptional workshop. The directors were fully engaged. We talked a lot about strategic directions and ways to promote economic development.

Photos:
Top:The corporate governance workshop held at Jabalbina’s office in Craiglie was a great success. All twelve of the corporation’s directors attended (left to right) Doreen Jones, Alfred Diamond, Sandra Houghton, ORIC Deputy Registrar, Joe Mastrolembo, Roslyn Port, Katrina Gibson, Andrew Solomon , EKY CEO Michael Friday, Shontell Walker, male chairperson Jason Wachter, female chairperson Robyn Bellafquih, Robert Walker, ORIC’s Bianca-Rose Gregory, Lee Yeatman and Ian Woibo. Photo: ORIC
Bottom:In the classroom. Deputy Registrar, Joe Mastrolembo, with the group.  ‘This was an exceptional workshop. The directors were fully engaged. We talked a lot about strategic directions and ways to promote economic development.’ Photo: Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC