- Agencies should contact a central point such as an Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) before visiting a community so that wherever possible and appropriate, the proposed engagement can be integrated and coordinated with existing processes.
- For example, before engaging with Remote Service Delivery (RSD) priority communities government departments must complete a visiting officer notification form and coordinate through the relevant Regional Operations Centre (ROC) and/or the Government Business Manager (GBM) located in the community.
When planning a visit to a community, with an individual or with a group keep the following in mind.
- Use the Indigenous engagement plan template (Attachment A) to help you plan the engagement activity.
- Ensure that you have a clear understanding of your role and the purpose of the engagement activity.
- Identify the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians with whom you wish to engage.
- Be aware of the information you can share as part of the engagement process.
- Remember those with whom you are engaging may not have the same background information as you, so send relevant information in advance so as to make the engagement activity viable and productive on both sides.
- Think through, prior to the visit, what the potential barriers to specific strategies might be, so that these can be discussed in the negotiation process.
- It is suggested that a flexible timetable is put in place as arrangements could change with little or no notice due to a range of community issues you may not be aware of and have no control over (e.g. ‘sorry business’, a death, a funeral, a mourning period).
Arranging engagement activities in community
There is no legal requirement for Commonwealth or State government officers to seek permission to enter a community on business. In most cases however, it is appropriate and respectful to at least notify of your need and intention to visit, and to seek advice if this is an appropriate time.
Prior to travelling to a community the ROC manager and/or the GBM in the community (and local council where appropriate) should be advised of the proposed visit.
Confirm the following in writing:
- who you are and why you need to visit
- expected arrival and departure dates and times
- the time required for meeting(s)
- who else you might like to talk to while in the community or at the organisation you are visiting
- whether anyone else is travelling with you
- if it is permissible to advertise your visit (if appropriate)
- clarification concerning any issues about payment to individuals for attending the meeting
- accommodation options (if required to stay overnight)
- using an interpreter (it is preferable to employ a neutral person/seek advice from the relevant interpreting service)
- whether there are any particular cultural considerations of which you should be aware (e.g. is it a community that maintains skin and relationship avoidance practices?)
- if you should provide catering for the meeting.
Demonstrate your understanding of local circumstances by practising the following whilst undertaking engagement.
- Respect local protocols of the community for organising discussions and formal meetings.
- Demonstrate to the community an interest in their way of seeing the world, and acknowledge their culture.
- Respect the political structures in the community.
- Demonstrate that you understand and are sensitive to the different communication styles used, particularly the use of non-verbal communication
- Show that you are patient, as engagement in an Indigenous manner can take much longer than that in the non-indigenous world.
- Demonstrate that you have community interests at heart, by listening and then repeating the outcomes of the engagement process to acknowledge that you have heard their position correctly.
- Respect confidentiality.
- Pay attention to the needs that the community leaders identify as important.
- Note and understand the solutions that a group or community have in mind and be careful not to jump to grander solutions which can’t be understood.
- Accept that there are biases in the way you carry out your enquiries, and also in the way that clients interpret information. These biases shape the values put on things that are told and what is considered as reasonable.
You will also need to make sure that:
- Your attention is not given solely towards a single issue as there may be other related community concerns.
- You hear the diversity of views of a range of groups or the broader community.
- You are aware of gender issues at all times (e.g. men’s and women’s business).
- You recognise the importance of taking into account and incorporating traditional Indigenous values and approaches in addition to ‘modern’ approaches (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people balance culture and change in all of their decision making, whether this is overt or not).
- You are appropriately dressed as a government representative
- You proceed at the pace set by the community/individual and check that you both understand the issue or decision at hand
- You are down-to-earth, honest and relate to actual, practical things. The community/individual will relate to what you do, more than what you say or who you are.
- When leaving a group, you let them know where you are going and why, rather than leaving without explanation.
- Avoid assumptions.
- Use plain English and ensure that clear and appropriate language is used.
- Avoid jargon and technical language.
- Do not mimic Indigenous ways of speaking in words, slang, speech or accent.
- Be open minded.
- Do not be too direct as this may be taken as confrontational and/or rude.
- Consider local protocols on the use of eye contact.
It may also be appropriate in many communities to consider the following.
- Emphasise the purpose of your visit and the intended benefits to the community.
- Do not ask hypothetical questions.
- Deal in practical, real issues not theoretical ideas.
Often English is not the first language spoken.
- When you facilitate meetings, workshops or training sessions, be aware there may be a need for an interpreter to assist the process.
- Engage with the interpreter and the relevant community interest groups before preparing the agenda. Also, ensure sufficient time is allowed to brief the interpreter on the issue.
Deciding who to speak to
- Contact the relevant ROC/ICC for advice.
- Work towards building relationships without expecting people to accept you immediately (it may take several visits over an extended period of time).
- Be open minded and flexible in your practice.
- Observe courtesies when visiting someone’s house.
- Ensure that you follow up any issues raised.
Other information sheets in the series
- Issues to keep in mind – Part 1 Cultural awareness
- Steps for engaging effectively to work together and build productive partnerships
- The engagement spectrum
- What are the principles underpinning effective engagement?
- What is good engagement?
Indigenous Engagement Plan Template
[INSERT COMMUNITY NAME]
|Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5||Step 6|
e.g. this could be an organisation, person, family, etc
|Type of Stakeholder
e.g. family, organisation, elder, spokesperson, etc
|Priority of stakeholder to your business (H, M, L)||Strengths and challenges of current relationship||Desired relationship||Proposed changes|
|IDENTIFY CURRENT STAKEHOLDER PRIORITIES & VIEWS ON THIS ISSUE|
|Key Themes||Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander views|
Stakeholder Priority Matrix
- Program/Initiative Overview
Provide an overview of the program or initiative including key elements, and the aims and objectives of the program/initiative.
- Objectives of Engagement
What is the end result that you are seeking to achieve? e.g. to build relationships, to provide opportunity for communities to input into decisions for program, to build awareness of program, etc
- Target Audience
Provide an overview of the community or communities involved in the development and implementation of this program/initiative. Information could include location, population, existing engagement channels and local considerations, etc.
Identify all stakeholders or stakeholder groups.
Use the tables and matrix below to assist in indentifying and determining the priority of each stakeholder, as well as stakeholder views and priorities.
- Engagement Method
In this section outline the method/s of engagement to be used for each stakeholder/group or audience. Complete the table below for each stakeholder/group or audience. Complete as many tables as required.
AUDIENCE/STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT METHOD e.g. information sheets, discussion paper, posters, flip charts, free call hotline, radio announcements, website, emails, face-to-face consultations, group information sessions, workshops
- Key Messages to be shared with target audience
What are the key messages to be shared with each target audience?
AUDIENCE/STAKEHOLDER KEY MESSAGES
- Communication Products
What are the communications tools needed to support delivery of the messages
|Role and responsibilities|
|e.g. from NTER Redesign Engagement Plan
FaHCSIA National Office
Design an engagement/consultation strategy
Coordinate within and cross agency input
Liaise with Minister/s and Minister’s Office.
Prepare consultation materials
Assistance with media management (NTSO)
Design reporting process
- Roles and responsibilities of agency staff in engagement process
Outline the roles and responsibilities of all areas involved in the specific program/initiative and the community engagement plan.
|Activity||Milestone 1||Completion date||Milestone 2||Completions date||Activity completion date|
|e.g. posters printed and distributed|
|e.g. free call hotline established
- Timelines and Milestones
Identify critical milestones for community engagement for the program/initiative. Include timeframes and dates for completion of each activity.
Establish the purpose of the evaluation and who to involve; key evaluation questions and information requirements; sources and methods; and how results will be interpreted and reported.
Prior to approving the Engagement Plan, complete the following checklist to ensure that appropriate planning has been undertaken before seeking to engage with communities and other key stakeholders.
- Monitoring and Evaluation Checklist
- Are you clear about what you want to achieve through the proposed engagement exercise?
- Have relevant staff and stakeholders been consulted about the proposed engagement activity? If face-to-face engagement activities are planned, have you sought advice from local staff regarding your proposed visit?
- Are you aware of stakeholders’ views and priorities and what else is happening in the community that may impact on your engagement and/or any visit/s?
- Have all stakeholders been identified and included in the stakeholder tables and matrix?
- Are your key messages specific enough for the meeting/visit and do you require any other information or communication methods?
- Have you considered all possible barriers and challenges and thought through how to overcome these should they present themselves?
- Have you considered the need or otherwise of booking a suitable interpreter for the engagement activity, including arrangements for their travel, transport and accommodation? And have you briefed them appropriately?
- Is your strategy flexible enough to accommodate any barriers or challenges and still meet objectives?
- Have you planned how the engagement will take place – what methods you will employ?
- Do you have mechanisms for ensuring that outcomes and feedback from the engagement activity can be shared with stakeholders to build productive partnerships?
- Do you have a process for evaluating the effectiveness of your engagement activities and approach?
- Do you have mechanisms for ensuring that lessons learnt (what works/what doesn’t) can be shared within your agency, partner organisations and other APS agencies to inform future engagement activities?
Delegate ………………………… Date ………………….
- Approval Action Officer ………………………… Date ………………….