“Waltja is difficult to fault in its governance, it’s one of the best organisations I have encountered, the best in Australia,” Professor Dodson said.

Australia’s top Aboriginal organisations announced

A leading Central Australian women’s group and an up-and-coming theatre troupe from country Victoria have received top honours at the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards.

At a gala dinner at BHP Billiton’s headquarters in Melbourne, Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation from Alice Springs and Swan Hill’s The Marruk Project were awarded the best run Aboriginal organisation and project in the country by a high-calibre judging panel, including the heads of the Business Council and Productivity Commission.

Indigenous Governance Awards Chair Professor Mick Dodson said this year’s finalists not only represent the best of what is happening within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but across Australia as a whole.

“To me it is clear, when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are empowered to take the lead in decisions about their lives and draw on culture as a source of strength and resilience, anything is possible. The 2014 finalists are perfect examples of this.”

Reconciliation Australia, in partnership with BHP Billiton, holds the Indigenous Governance Awards biennially to identify, celebrate and promote strong Indigenous governance.

In 2014, a record 113 high-quality applications were received from a diverse range of organisations, hailing from some of Australia’s remotest communities and busiest cities.

An independent judging panel, chaired by Professor Dodson, spent four weeks touring Australia to assess the finalists against five criteria including self-determination, cultural relevance and legitimacy, future planning, and resilience.

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation was awarded Category A winner for ‘incorporated organisations’, while Girringun Aboriginal Corporation in North Queensland was highly commended.

Professor Dodson described Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation as “a very well-run organisation concentrating on delivering services to families and communities”.

“Waltja is difficult to fault in its governance, it’s one of the best organisations I have encountered, the best in Australia,” Professor Dodson said.

The Marruk Project in Swan Hill, Victoria, won Category B for ‘non-incorporated projects’, with the Muntjiltjarra Wurrgumu Group from Wiluna in Western Australia a close second.

Professor Dodson said one of the unique things about Marruk is its ability to bring the whole town together.

“It’s what we should be seeing across the world. We need things like this to co-exist, to build understanding. To actually witness it bringing the town together is something that’s almost beyond belief.”

BHP Billiton Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said good governance promotes transparent, effective and accountable leadership.

“BHP Billiton has been proud to support the Indigenous Governance Awards since they began in 2005 and I congratulate this year’s winners.

“Good governance ensures a solid foundation for all organisations—whether government, community or business, and increases sustainable social and economic benefit,” Mr Mackenzie said.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Leah Armstrong said strong governance and the empowerment of communities are among the essential foundations of reconciliation.

“The Indigenous Governance Awards highlight the many excellent examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations leading the way in their communities, coming up with innovative ideas and building healthy, prosperous communities.

“Thanks to the support of BHP Billiton we have been able to share this success and the impressive achievements of our finalists with all of Australia,” Ms Armstrong said.

For further information about the Indigenous Governance Awards visit www.reconciliation.org.au/iga

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