Girringun featured in Gardian Australia.

Passing down the skills and knowledge of elders is key to the success of a unique cohort of nine traditional owner groups formed to protect a huge area of land and sea in far north Queensland, its leaders say.

Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, one of eight finalists in the Indigenous Governance Awards (IGA), has put years of work into building consensus among the groups and gaining credibility with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around Cardwell on the far north Queensland coast.

The organisation’s chief executive and co-founder, Phil Rist, told Guardian Australia that credibility was vital to the corporation’s reputation.

“How many times do you hear of an Aboriginal organisation going belly-up, with money [that has] been spent wrong, or poor governance?” he said.

“People out there in the broader community see that stuff and they growl about it and say ‘here them blackfellas go again’, but here in the Girringun footprint the [community] is comfortable with what we put forward.”

This week the organisation, founded in 1996, presented its work to a team of visiting judges, included the IGA chairman, Mick Dodson, the chief executive of the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, Eddie Cubillo, and the Department of Employment’s Marsha Milliken.

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