Inclusive Governance: Providing Opportunities for Lived Experience

21st May, 2024

Barkuma’s new approach to providing opportunities for lived experience

You can also find the easy-English version of the article.

The Board of Barkuma is taking steps to foster equitable participation and representation through inclusive governance. CEO Simon Rowberry explains, “As an organisation that supports people with disability, it’s really important that we’ve got people with a disability involved in decision-making at multiple levels throughout the business.”

Inclusive governance offers numerous benefits for Barkuma as a disability service provider, enriching organisational dynamics and service delivery. By incorporating the voices and perspectives of individuals with disabilities in decision-making processes, Barkuma aims to foster a more diverse and inclusive culture. This inclusivity not only enhances understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by clients and staff with disabilities but also ensures that services are tailored to meet those needs effectively.

Inclusive governance also promotes accountability and transparency, as decisions align closely with the interests and priorities of the community Barkuma serves and beyond. By empowering individuals with disabilities and advocating for their rights, inclusive governance contributes to broader societal goals of promoting social justice and inclusion.


Bringing about this change hasn’t come without its challenges. Simon explains, “We had some vacancies on our board in the lead-up to the last annual general meeting. We went to the market actively seeking people with disability to join our board.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to identify someone who had the skills to become a board member immediately. In response, we committed to developing an observership program, and we offered a position to someone who had applied for the role but had never been on a board before.”


The observership program lasts for a year, throughout which the participant partakes in meetings, gains guidance from current board members, and has access to educational and development resources. The aim is to equip them with the necessary skills and experience to potentially take up board roles in the future, either within Barkuma or other disability organisations. Currently, the selection criteria for program participation are relatively open, but Barkuma aims to develop specific criteria that are aligned with organisational values and goals.


At Barkuma, we are proud to implement inclusive governance beyond the observership program. We engage with customers through various channels to ensure their voices are heard when shaping organisational policies and services. This engagement occurs through multiple regular opportunities, during which clients are encouraged to share their thoughts and suggestions. Establishing Barkuma Voice Groups three years ago has allowed clients to provide direct feedback, which is then reviewed by leadership.

We aim to expand these groups, involving participants in policy and procedure reviews to ensure that their insights inform decisions directly impacting their lives. We plan to engage customer groups in co-design projects to develop effective service models collaboratively. This multi-pronged approach reflects our commitment to client empowerment and inclusive governance.

As Barkuma continues to evolve, our vision extends beyond cultivating directors within our organisation to nurturing future leaders across the broader disability sector. These efforts are intricately linked with our strategic objectives, strongly emphasising inclusivity and co-design principles to guide our future trajectory.

By investing in the development of leaders who champion diversity and collaborative innovation, we aim to drive positive change throughout the disability community.

To get in-touch, complete an online contact form on the Barkuma website or phone (08) 8414 7100