Indigenous Engagement Needs Strategic Leadership
4 October 2013 at 12:10 pm
Hurried one-off “consultations” that are organised without indigenous input don’t work, new evidence has revealed.
The evidence from two papers, Engaging with Indigenous Australia—exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Engagement with Indigenous communities in key sectors, was released on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.
Engaging with Indigenous Australia reviewed the evidence on engagement and outlined the conditions required for effective engagement.
The paper said the evidence showed that effective engagement required strong and strategic Indigenous and government leadership and adequate governance, and that hurried one-off “consultations” that were organised without Indigenous input do not work.
The paper found that fragmented arrangements, where each agency tries to engage with the same Indigenous people and organisations, placed unnecessarily heavy burdens on Indigenous people.
The evidence shows that engaging successfully with Indigenous communities required:
- an appreciation of the historical, social, cultural and political complexity of specific Indigenous contexts;
- active Indigenous participation from the earliest stage of defining the problem to be solved and defining aspirations, through to implementing the program and evaluating the results;
- long term relationships of trust, respect and honesty, as well as accessible and ongoing communication and clarity about roles and responsibilities;
- genuine efforts to share power, including through negotiated agreements;
- clarity about the purpose of and scale for engagement and appropriate timeframes;
- attention to strengthening governance and capacity within both the Indigenous community and governments themselves, and good leadership;
- and, negotiation of clear and agreed outcomes and indicators of success with monitoring and evaluation processes that meet each parties’ needs.
The findings were consistent with the findings of the second paper, Engagement with Indigenous communities in key sectors, which reviewed the evidence from studies of Indigenous engagement in early childhood services, environmental and natural resource management activities, and health programs at local, regional, state and national levels.
It outlined the common lessons on different levels of engagement from local engagement through to regional, statewide and national engagement.
The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse is jointly funded by all Australian Governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).