Closing the Gap is underpinned by a new way of engaging with Indigenous Australians. All governments are committed to building respectful and collaborative relationships with Indigenous people, marked by open dialogue and mutual respect and responsibility. Engagement and partnership with Indigenous people and communities will help to create sustainable solutions to long-standing problems.
In July 2009 under the National Indigenous Reform Agreement all governments committed to Service delivery principles for programs and services for Indigenous Australians.
These include a specific Indigenous engagement principle:
- engagement with Indigenous men, women, children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services.
A practical example of this approach has been the employment of Indigenous Engagement Officers in communities across remote Australia to improve engagement and facilitate better understanding between government and community members of each other’s priorities and concerns.
In May 2010 the document Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration called for greater collaboration and innovation, more engagement with community, and a greater focus on outcomes for citizens.
Two of the areas for action specific to these goals are:
- forging a stronger relationship with citizens through better service delivery and greater involvement of citizens, and
- strengthening the capacity of the public service.
These reforms highlight the government’s recognition that it needs to be more effective in engaging with Indigenous Australians in the design and delivery of policies, programs and services that affect them. They acknowledge that solutions developed and driven by communities through their active involvement and genuine collaboration will be more effective and sustainable than those that are imposed with little or no engagement.
Resources for improving engagement
To support the government’s commitment to resetting the relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, six information sheets about engagement have been developed. These are useful resources for anyone interested in improving their engagement with Indigenous Australians.
They provide guidance on what is meant by engagement including types of engagement, principles underpinning good engagement and practices that can be embedded as integral parts of day-to-day business.
The information sheets cover the following topics: