Definitions of clinical governance are varied and there is no one agreed model. This paper explored the perspectives of rural and remote primary healthcare services, located in North Queensland, Australia, on the meaning and goals of clinical governance. The study followed an embedded multiple case study design with semi-structured interviews, document analysis and non-participant observation. Participants included clinicians, non-clinical support staff, managers and executives. Similarities and differences in the understanding of clinical governance between health centre and committee case studies were evident. Almost one-third of participants were unfamiliar with the term or were unsure of its meaning; alongside limited documentation of a definition. Although most cases linked the concept of clinical governance to key terms, many lacked a comprehensive understanding. Similarities between cases included viewing clinical governance as a management and administrative function. Differences included committee members' alignment of clinical governance with corporate governance and frontline staff associating clinical governance with staff safety. Document analysis offered further insight into these perspectives. Clinical governance is well-documented as an expected organisational requirement, including in rural and remote areas where geographic, workforce and demographic factors pose additional challenges to quality and safety. However, in reality, it is not clearly, similarly or comprehensively understood by all participants.