ORIC's partnership with the Australian National University

Research project team members Dr Katherine Curchin (left) and Peni Fukofuka (back) with ORIC’s Trish Gibson at the agency’s 2010 Indigenous Corporate Governance Event in Alice Springs

A new research project funded by ORIC and the Australian Research Council is exploring accountability and governance in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations.

The research project aims to find out how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations can serve their local communities at the same time as meeting the demands of ORIC and funding bodies.

ORIC has contributed funding to this research as it recognises the importance of better understanding how community governance is incorporated into the governance of community organisations. The project commenced in 2010–11 and will run over three years.

Project leader Professor Kerry Jacobs is well known for his research on public sector accountability and governance. ‘This is an exciting opportunity to explore how accountability and governance are understood in different cultural settings,’ says Professor Jacobs. PhD student Peni Fukofuka is another member of the research team. For his thesis Peni is investigating how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations manage their many accountability demands.

‘Digging a little I have a sense of what corporations are going through. They have multiple demands—I want to find out how they handle them. Just this week, I heard of one corporation that is giving out 93 reports a year!’ he says.

A third member of the research team, Dr Katherine Curchin, is excited to be a part of the project. ‘Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations have the same struggles that other not-for-profit organisations face in the 21st century. This project offers a window into the changing relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations and government and the opportunity to see how corporations are rising to meet the challenges.’

The research team is also interested in the barriers that inhibit good communication between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As a Tongan from an indigenous background himself, Peni has some empathy with the viewpoint of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. His previous research investigated the relationship between the World Bank and his home country, Tonga.

The researchers will be speaking to people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations in different parts of Australia. They are keen to hear about the challenges corporations are facing, as well as their good news stories. If you would be interested in sharing your corporation’s story with the researchers, you can find out more information about the research project by visiting www.cbe.anu.edu.au/schools/abis/PAAIC/index.html or calling ORIC on 1800 622 431 (tollfree, except from mobiles) or sending an email to info@oric.gov.au.

Photo: Research project team members Dr Katherine Curchin (left) and Peni Fukofuka (back) with ORIC’s Trish Gibson at the agency’s 2010 Indigenous Corporate Governance Event in Alice Springs. Photo by: Eli Archer/ORIC.