Meet the changemakers: the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute

The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) is an independent, Indigenous-led center that designs and delivers solutions to help strengthen governance capabilities and meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

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Carla McGrath, MC of the International Indigenous Governance Conference, 2-3 Dec 2020. Photo taken by Wirrim Media

The changemaker series highlights the organizations, supported by BHP Foundation, that work on building solutions to complex social and environmental challenges. This time, we shine a light on the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI).

By connecting Indigenous Australians to world-class governance practice, resources and professional development, AIGI enables Indigenous nations, communities and groups to exercise their right for self-governance.

Why AIGI’s work is needed

Over the last 15 years, there has been a discernible shift in focus from securing the rights of Indigenous peoples to exercising those rights. Effective Indigenous governance is one way to enable Indigenous groups to navigate a space between two systems and achieve two-way governance.

However, many mainstream social, economic and political systems still exclude Indigenous peoples and perpetuate a lack of formal recognition over their lands, territories, natural resources and cultural governance practices.

The solution

Through evidence-based tools, resources and a range of development, training and advisory offerings, AIGI supports self-determined governance for Indigenous individuals, communities, nations and organizations in Australia.

To enable systemic change, AIGI has focused on three areas of impact:

1. Advocacy and thought leadership: bringing AIGI’s expertise and evidence-base to key actors in the system to help remove barriers and allow Indigenous governance to flourish within the conventional system.

A concrete example of the work in this area is the Indigenous Governance Toolkit, a comprehensive learning resource developed to help strengthen and evaluate Indigenous governance practices, providing an understanding of unique cultures, values, leadership styles, decision making practices, rules and memberships. Learn more


2. Strategic partnerships: identifying and building relationships that amplify impact by bringing complementary skills, expertise and networks together.

In partnership with Reconciliation Australia and with BHP Foundation support, AIGI delivers the Indigenous Governance Awards aiming to recognize the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led organizations and projects that, through their effective governance models, make outstanding contributions to communities and to Australia. Learn more

3. Project work: engaging with Indigenous leaders, organizations, communities and nations on the ground to understand the experiences and challenges communities face, as well as the innovations and breakthroughs.

AIGI collects data and insights about Indigenous culture-centered governance practices in Australia and around the world as research plays a key role in building evidence. Learn more

The future

As a small not-for-profit organization, AIGI first partnered with BHP Foundation in 2017 to focus on establishing their organization, developing critical resources and offerings, and developing resources over five years.

Since then, AIGI has matured to the extent that in 2023, the organization decided to pursue a strategy that blends philanthropic funding and with self-generated revenue, to meet the diverse and growing demand for their resources and expertise.

BHP Foundation continues to support AIGI through this new phase of becoming a social enterprise.

“When we first backed the idea of an Indigenous Governance center of excellence back in 2017, we knew AIGI had a big journey ahead to establish themselves and build the resources and partnerships needed to position Indigenous governance alongside Western governance systems. It is inspiring to witness how their unwavering focus on their purpose, combines with strong collaboration and adaptability has positioned AIGI to scale their offerings and be resilient to inevitable ups and downs. AIGI have demonstrated how access to medium-term philanthropic capital can seed new models and drive impact that will endure”, Victoria Thom, BHP Foundation's Australia Program Director.


The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) is supported by the BHP Foundation’s Australia program, which aims to enable positive change for Indigenous peoples by supporting self-determination. Read more about our program.

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Indigenous self-determination is a right BHP Foundation actively supports

BHP Foundation understands self-determination to mean Indigenous peoples should have voice and choice in decisions affecting them, have thriving cultures and financial autonomy. Since 2017, the Foundation has invested in projects to advance self-determination in many parts of the world.

Learn more