Key Points

  • Governance is about the way an organisation is run and the rules it operates by.
  • Every community organisation will have some form of governance, which involves individuals working together on a Board or Committee, to oversee and run the organisation
  • You’re not alone – there is a lot of information available to help you learn more as you go, and your peers on the Board or Committee will also be able to help support you.

Governance is about the way an organisation is run and how decisions are made. It is about ensuring there is a group of people that work together on behalf of the organisation and who decide on the rules and structures the organisation operates by and the ways everyone involved in the organisation will be held accountable to those rules. Governance is also important in setting the culture of an organisation and the values and behaviours that are expected of anyone involved in the organisation.  Key issues for people involved in Governance include making sure the organisation’s practices are safe and comply with appropriate standards and laws and that the organisation’s resources are managed well and in the best interests of the organisation.

Some common roles or terms used relating to an organisation’s governance are:  Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, Office Bearers, Committee members or Board members, Directors. Trustees, Councillors, Governors and Responsible Persons. Each and all of these roles are involved in Governance.  Some organisations have Boards, some have Management Committees – but mostly their responsibilities are the same.   We’ll use these words interchangeably as they have a common role in helping govern the organisation.

Sometimes in larger organisations there is a Board and also Board Sub-Committees to share some of the workload.  Normally a Sub-Committee reports up to the Board.

There are many resources that support volunteer Boards and Committees undertake their governance activities.   There is no one-size-fits-all governance solution or practices, but as a group, the members of organisation’s Management Committee or Board decide on the rules and practices that enable it to be run effectively, meet its obligations and to plan ahead for the future.

Top Tip

There’s a lot to learn about how Committees and Boards work. No one knows it all at the start. Over time you will grow your skills, knowledge and confidence.

Want more? ... check out these resources

Website – Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission – Over 10 minutes


Click on the first section labelled “Governance” in this terrific toolkit from the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) and get a really good overview of what is Governance and why it’s important … and much else besides.  Poke around.

Website – Australian Indigenous Governance Institute – Over 10 minutes


The Indigenous Governance Toolkit provides a great plain English guide to Governance concepts.  This link will take you to the Understanding Governance module which is the gateway to much more content.  It offers a great explanation of how involvement in Governance is an important component of providing a voice in decision-making on activities that you’re involved in.  It’s got some wonderful content from senior Indigenous women talking about how Governance processes support and are part of wider community leadership and empowerment processes.

Online learning module - QCOSS - Over 10 minutes


A great introductory elearning offering from QCOSS on Governance. You'll need to register but it give you access to this and a whole pile of other very user friendly online learning options.

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