Northern Territory Government Remote Engagement and Coordination Online Toolkit

Lily Roy traditional owner at Milingimbi

Indigenous governance and leadership development

Lily differentiating Yolŋu governance from Yolŋu leadership

Having worked at Milingimbi for some time, we felt it important to get some firm declarations from key elders as to how they themselves understand governance and leadership.

In this interview with Lily Roy, the land owner, she made a clear distinction between her authority as land owner—an authority largely to do with the different clans for whom she was ‘mother’ or ‘grandmother’ of whole groups—and the way in which the members of a community should be governed.

She made clear that even though she is the land owner, she is not the leader for everyone at Milingimbi. Particular other groups have leadership responsibility at Milingimbi because of their relationship to the land and each other, but this doesn’t include everyone. Leadership is specific to ancestral networks of clan groups and places.

Each individual is in a network of kinship care and concern which demands complex interactions of leadership. Governance is a different story. Everyone needs to work together with the land in full agreement if we are to succeed in governance. Lily’s discussion of governance was focussed on the collaborative work which must be done when we are working together to maintain and harvest the resources which the land has to offer.

Promoting Governance and Leadership in an Aboriginal community is here made easier by being clear about what ancestral law has to say.

Last updated: 23 Aug 2016