Engagement requires us to enter into a relationship as equal partners, with respect, with honesty, concern for the other’s situation and perspective, and acknowledgement of the value of each party’s contribution. How we engage will set an example of good democratic practice. It will enable ownership, help build capacity and make a positive contribution. It should not disempower.
Regardless of the type of engagement envisaged (see The engagement spectrum fact sheet), it is important that all engagement activity is underpinned by the following core principles.
- Respect and trust the knowledge and views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
- Engage through the community’s preferred and/or nominated channels.
- Be factual.
- Know as much as possible before proceeding with engagement.
- Understand the broad physical, social, historical, cultural and political context in which engagement is to occur.
- Take into account the preferences of all parties involved about how they wish to engage, whilst building on existing strengths and assets.
- Be transparent and honest.
- Government must be clear about why it is engaging and what it hopes to achieve to ensure that expectations are aligned with what can reasonably be expected as an outcome.
- Allow adequate time for genuine engagement.
- Provide opportunities for input early and often.
- Encourage genuine partnerships between the government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including sharing decision making and having provisions for well-defined roles and responsibilities.
- Ensure engagement activity is outcomes focused, not just a box to be ticked.
- Successful outcomes need to demonstrate how the relationship has been improved through the engagement.
- Work for ‘win-win’ outcomes.
- Maximise local participation, implementation and handling.
- Ensure that adequate support is provided so that people are able to participate and contribute to the engagement process.
- Be clear about why participation is being sought and how people’s participation will affect the process.
- Acknowledge the participation of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians in the engagement activity.
- Ensure that clear feedback is provided about how their input has been utilised.
- Feedback should be provided through the appropriate channels.
These principles are consistent with and reinforce application of the APS Values and Code of Conduct. All Commonwealth departments are expected to apply the principles for engagement when developing new or amending existing programs and services that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
These principles also complement the Australian Government’s Social Inclusion Principles and the Council of Australian Government’s Service Delivery Principles for Services to Indigenous Australians.