Indigenous Services

Services Experience People

HopgoodGanim has a designated indigenous business advisory and structuring group that is committed to working with indigenous communities to help them develop commercial capabilities that will enable them to build community and individual wealth and prosperity. Specifically, we assist with the establishment, ongoing legal compliance and governance of corporate structures that are suitable for:

  • investing funds received through native title and future act compensation payments;
  • establishing and operating businesses and ventures; and 
  • implementing social, health, educational, cultural and other programs that are of significance and relevance to the community.

We work closely with indigenous communities to establish a long-term relationship as their trusted legal advisor. It is not our role to tell the community what to do - rather, we see our role as one of assisting the community to set and achieve its own commercial, social and cultural goals, and to assist in building their commercial capabilities so that they can achieve those goals. By doing this, the community derives the maximum benefit from native title and future act compensation payments over the long term. 

We work with indigenous communities to establish specifically tailored corporate structures, such as the establishment of vehicles in which royalties and other payments can be received and invested on a passive basis, or the establishment of entities that can operate or invest in active businesses. We advise on the commercial and taxation consequences of the various structures and make recommendations as to the most suitable structure, having regard to the commercial, strategic and cultural objectives of the particular community.

We have experience drafting and amending the constituent documents (eg company constitutions and trust deeds) for these structures to tailor them to the needs of the particular community and to ensure they are culturally appropriate. We also advise, and provide training, in relation to governance and the legal obligations that arise when community members become directors of, or have some other involvement in, these structures. We have drafted codes of conduct and governance procedures that have been implemented by commercial entities established by indigenous communities to ensure that those entities achieve the highest standards of governance and management. 

There is no "one size fits all" approach and in our experience "off the shelf" documents rarely, if ever,
deliver an effective outcome, as they simply do not take into account the specific needs, objectives and
cultural dynamics of the community. Many indigenous communities will have been through processes, perhaps as part of a native title claim or to approve an ILUA, which are directed at the community approving a particular course of action or outcome. Those processes are essentially external decision-making processes that are imposed by legislation - and they are almost never reflective of the decision-making customs and practices that have been developed and implemented by indigenous communities over generations. 

"Off the shelf" documents are likely to deliver the same outcome in a corporate context - they are likely  to contain decision-making processes that are culturally irrelevant, inappropriate and, as a result, ineffective.

All of our advice is tailored to each specific community, to ensure that it is in all respects relevant and
appropriate. Our three-stage approach to indigenous business advice aims to deliver this outcome.