Indigenous Engagement Officers are employed in remote Indigenous communities across Australia to help improve engagement between communities and governments.
The Australian Government initially introduced Indigenous Engagement Officers (IEOs) and Government Business Managers (GBMs) as part of a suite of measures in the Northern Territory directed towards Closing the Gap. These two measures were subsequently extended to other areas across the country under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery.
The Australian Government has implemented a national program under which IEOs are employed to:
- provide a critical coordination and communication role within their community
- more effectively link community and Government, and
- build greater trust and understanding between community and government.
As the Remote Service Delivery program is a national partnership, IEOs may be employed by the Australian Government, or a State or Territory Government.
IEOs must, amongst other things:
- be a member of the community (or acceptable to the community)
- understand the community’s dynamics and protocols, and the issues and interests of the community, and
- demonstrate awareness of current Indigenous issues.
The IEOs have been working closely with their local GBMs and have created vital links between their community and government. The IEOs have increased their community’s knowledge and understanding of government business, and have developed partnership arrangements with other government representatives and agencies working in their community, for example, Centrelink, State/Territory housing, non-government organisations, local councils/corporations.
They have been able to do this by:
- meeting and talking with families, individuals, clans and community groups about how they want their community to develop
- talking with people about how to become more involved in government decision making, and
- providing feedback to community and governments about key government activity, in particular the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery and other National Partnerships.
As a result of their work IEOs have increased government representatives’ knowledge and understanding of community interests, needs and opinions.