Oxfam Australia’s recent In Good Hands report documents compelling evidence that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations are empowered to build on traditional knowledge and culture, the services they deliver achieve greater results than mainstream organisations. The report highlights case studies nationally that demonstrate leading strategies for Indigenous self-determination, including, in Queensland, the Our Way strategy and the introduction of Aboriginal family-led decision-making.
The case studies examined explain how and why community-based services are best placed to respond to the complex needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities who contend daily with the effects of colonisation, dispossession and inter-generational trauma. As New South Wales Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services acting chief executive Jo Grant explains, Indigenous-led services have a much deeper understanding of the issues facing the people of the region. “We walk and work in two worlds,” she says.
Among the case studies reviewed is Queensland’s Our Way strategy, developed in partnership with SNAICC and QATSICPP and overseen by community-controlled organisations. The strategy represents a long-term committment to delivering culturally-safe and community-based practice. Significant increased funding of community organisations is a key component of supporting and realising the strategy and so far 33 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child and Family Wellbeing Services have been resourced across the state. Data from the first 12 months shows that these early-intervention services have achieved half the rate of re-notifications to Child Safety compared with mainstream, non-Indigenous organisations.
Further evidence in Queensland can be seen in the results of an independent evaluation of the Aboriginal family-led decisionmaking trials conducted across the state in 2016-17, which found that in trial sites that focused on supporting families to prevent the entry of children into out-of-home care, 32 out of 40 families who participated were reported to have benefited from improvements in safety and protection from harm as a result of this Aboriginal-led process.
In the face of declining government investment in Indigenous services as documented by the Productivity Commission, the report offers government ten recommendations to foster effective Indigenous-led solutions, including implementing self-determination provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and embedding this principle in service delivery, supporting autonomy for First Peoples communities to negotiate treaties and agreements, and preferencing Indigenous-led services within policy for Indigenous communities.
Read the report.