Becoming an independent director - things to think about

Being a director requires much more than a token contribution. But the effort is often rewarded with a long-lasting impact on the wellbeing and future of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation.

Below are some things you should think about when you are considering becoming an independent director:

Role and responsibilities

  • Do you understand the roles, responsibilities and legal duties of being a director?

Commitment and contribution

Becoming an independent director is an ongoing commitment for the term of the appointment. It isn’t a one-off activity.

  • Can you realistically commit to the time required to discharge your duties effectively and participate in meetings? It is important that you attend meetings and come prepared.
  • How far are you willing to travel? Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations are located in regional and remote areas of Australia. The travel time to attend meetings can be significant in some cases.
  • If you are currently employed does your workplace support your participation as an independent director of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation?

Matching skills and interests

  • What are the skills and traits you have to offer?
  • What do you want to get out of the experience?

Motivation

  • Are you willing to put in the time and effort if there is no remuneration?

Choosing a corporation

  • Do you want an intimate, hands-on role or a more bird's eye, hands-off role?
    • A small corporation with no staff may mean more hands on work
    • A larger and more structured corporation may have staff and a large complicated budget to oversee.
  • How much do you know about the corporation? Have you reviewed their corporation reports, financial position, rule book and other relevant materials—policies, procedures or code of conduct?
  • Do the corporation’s objectives and vision fit with your own values and beliefs?
  • What does the corporation’s rule book say about independent directors?
  • Does the corporation have directors’ and officers’ liability insurance which covers directors when discharging their duty?
  • Does the corporation want someone to help with short-term projects or long-term strategy?
  • What are your limits? These are some extreme examples but they do happen—if required, are you willing to:
    • camp in a swag on the bare ground to attend a meeting?
    • clean out a rodent-infested cool room in a community store?

Working in two worlds

When people from different cultures are trying to work together, the business world can be a challenging place. But it is also an opportunity to reveal a greater variety of perspectives, ideas and solutions.

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations are different and will have different issues and cultural considerations. Some examples of how culture may influence corporation business are:

  • processes for making decisions
  • how a meeting is set up or run, such as people with ‘poison’ relationships may not be able to sit directly next to each other or converse directly and younger people may defer to elders on issues, even if they disagree.
  • last minute postponement of meetings or other events for unexpected sorry business.

Some cultural interactions can be interesting and thought provoking, and there are times it can be frustrating such as when there are delays to corporation business. Think about how these things might affect your motivation.

You may already have lots of cultural experience or maybe you are interested in learning.

  • What do you already know about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture?
  • Have you previously worked in or with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations?