This plan outlines research and evaluation activities to be undertaken by OIPC Group in FaHCSIA over the next three years to inform whole-of-government Indigenous policy and its implementation. The plan has been prepared in consultation with Australian Government agencies as represented in the Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs. This plan reflects a changed OIPC structure and function as a result of machinery-of-government changes and a departmental restructure in 2006.
The changes made from 1 July 2004 to the Australian Government's administration of Indigenous Affairs saw the creation of new governance and advisory structures together with an increased emphasis on working in a whole-of-government manner and improving accountability.
Flowing from these changes, the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC) was created and while it initially included areas administering programs by the end of 2006 these functions had been separated from OIPC and consolidated within the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). OIPC was restructured in to a Group within FaHCSIA in order to maintain OIPC's 'central agency' function in Indigenous Affairs in leading, coordinating, articulating and evaluating the Australian Government's approach to Indigenous affairs. OIPC's research and evaluation efforts aim to support this function through a process of continuous learning and improvement in Indigenous Affairs by progressively reviewing and informing the implementation of the new arrangements.
This plan focuses on those whole-of-government research and evaluation activities for which OIPC Group has responsibility. OIPC's research activities aim to supply the foundation for whole-of-government policy development by providing the necessary evidence base. Complementing these activities in informing whole-of-government policy is OIPC's evaluation program focused on the structures, mechanisms, and processes of the new arrangements. It examines the sector at a macro level rising above individual programs and creates a strategic learning framework. OIPC's evaluation efforts are only one element of the several layers of evaluation and performance assessments of the new arrangements, other layers include:
- Evaluations and audits by independent authorities, including the Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs) in the Department of Finance and Administration, the Australian National Audit Office, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner;
- Departmental sponsored audits and evaluations of the mainstream and Indigenous-specific programs, including lapsing programs and services each is responsible for;
- Public-sector, academic and independent research activities, including those funded by government departments and those conducted independently by academic institutions;
- Performance monitoring and reporting mechanisms, such as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report and the annual Reports on Government Services; and
- The Secretaries' Group on Indigenous Affairs Annual Report.
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A brief look at last year
The 2006-07 financial year saw OIPC's research and evaluation program gathering further momentum. OIPC provided whole-of-government leadership by building the evidence base about what works in Indigenous policy and what we need to improve upon. This included research around agreement making, mobility and service delivery, capacity building and governance in urban, regional and remote Aboriginal communities. Further, this commitment to a continuous learning framework has been demonstrated by the following evaluation activities in 2006-07:
- Evaluations of COAG trials including an overall synopsis review of the individual trial site evaluations to draw out the overarching lessons learnt and to guide future government action. The reports detailing the findings of these evaluations were released in February 2007 and are available on this website.
- A review of Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs) to identify opportunities for improvement in the implementation of the ICC model and to nurture a culture of continuous learning. The review was conducted in close consultation with other Australian Government agencies with staff in ICCs
- Independent reviews of individual Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) to consider outcomes, identify lessons learnt by parties to the SRAs and capture their perceptions of the SRA process. These 'intimate' reviews were designed to be concise and to assist signatories to SRAs in learning from the experience.
- An overarching implementation review of the SRA tool building on a document review, the reviews of individual SRAs, and fieldwork in a number of sites across Australia;
- A review of communities in crisis projects to assess whether projects had met their objectives and capture other benefits to inform the development and implementation of policy and programs and underpin the direction taken with new projects. This work will continue in 2007/08.
- Establishment of quantitative and qualitative baseline data and indicators in communities identified as priority sites in 2006-07 as a starting point for future performance monitoring and evaluation. This work was started with a first baseline community profile for Galiwin'ku in the Northern Territory and will continue in 2007/08 in additional sites across Australia.
Foundations of this Research and Evaluation Plan
OIPC's Research and Evaluation Plan 2007-10 is consistent with two of the six principles COAG's 2004 National Framework of Principles for Improving Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians. Those principles are:
Establishing Transparency and Accountability
- Strengthening the accountability of governments for the effectiveness of their programs and services through regular performance review, evaluation and reporting;
- Ensuring the accountability of organisations for the government funds that they administer on behalf of Indigenous people; and
- Tasking the Productivity Commission to continue to measure the effect of the COAG commitment through the jointly-agreed set of indicators.
Developing a Learning Framework
- Sharing information and experience about what is working and what is not; and
- Striving for best practice in the delivery of services to Indigenous people, families and communities.
The key focus of this framework is to encourage continuous learning and to refine the operation of the Government's new approach to Indigenous affairs. It will build a strong evidence base for future policy directions and service delivery arrangements.
To give effect to this learning framework, OIPC, maintains this three year rolling plan which is updated annually in consultation with other Australian Government agencies. This plan therefore identifies a set of activities that span key pillars of the government's new arrangements in Indigenous Affairs. It looks at the Australian Government's engagement in Indigenous affairs and considers the whole-of-government issues that cross or go beyond the organisational boundaries of individual agencies.
This plan is organised under three broad, overlapping themes:
- Policy outcomes - whole-of-government outcomes, coordination and gaps - the way in which policies and programs at the national level join to achieve outcomes for Indigenous people;
- Place - local arrangements and partnerships - the way in which governments and their programs work within local communities and how they can be made more responsive to the needs of those communities; and
- Process - implementation of the new arrangements - continuously improving the way agencies are implementing the Government's policies and programs.
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OIPC Evaluation Activities for 2007-2010
Note: Further detail on research activities can be found in the OIPC Evaluation Plan for Whole of Government Activities in Indigenous Affairs, 2006-09 on this website.
For more information about this evaluation plan, you can contact:
Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination Group
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
PO Box 17
Woden ACT 2606
Phone: (02) 6121 4594