There is a robust accountability process for OCHRE to make sure that it develops as community intended.
Deputy Ombudsman (Aboriginal Programs): a Deputy Ombudsman (Aboriginal Programs) role has been created in the NSW Ombudsman’s office to provide independent monitoring and assessment of OCHRE. This is a key plank of the accountability framework for OCHRE and is an Australian first – no other jurisdiction has legislated independent scrutiny of the government’s Aboriginal programs. The idea for this initiative came from Aboriginal community leaders and OCHRE is the first program being oversighted.
The Deputy Ombudsman (Aboriginal Programs) and his team look at how OCHRE is being implemented and the outcomes it is achieving, across all of the initiatives and sites. They give feedback to OCHRE agencies and partners to enable them to address any issues early, adopt good practices and deliver on objectives. They can also table public reports on OCHRE in Parliament. As part of the Deputy Ombudsman’s monitoring and assessment, evaluations of individual OCHRE initiatives conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre and the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation – as well as other evidence – will be taken into account.
The NSW Ombudsman’s office also has broader oversight of other government agencies and funded services, and can take individual complaints about unfair treatment, lack of access to a service and other issues. Further information on how the NSW Ombudsman works with Aboriginal communities can be found here.
Before OCHRE was developed, the NSW Ombudsman and the NSW Auditor-General called for strengthened accountability and transparency in the design, delivery and monitoring of services for Aboriginal communities. Some Aboriginal people also told the Ministerial Taskforce that ‘[there is] a fundamental lack of accountability to how we allocate and spend Aboriginal monies’.
OCHRE initially proposed the creation of a Coordinator General for Aboriginal Affairs and a new and independent Aboriginal Council. After some additional consultation, Aboriginal community leaders suggested that it would be more effective to appoint an Aboriginal Ombudsman to monitor and assess specified initiatives and programs relating to Aboriginal Affairs. It was decided that a Deputy Ombudsman for Aboriginal Programs was a stronger model for a number of reasons including, importantly, that it utilises an existing structure and process—the Office of the NSW Ombudsman.
Public reporting: an annual report on the progress of implementation is tabled in Parliament. You can find copies of the annual reports here.
Independent evaluation: the Social Policy Research Centre has been appointed to undertake this work and you can find more information here.
Solution brokerage: Aboriginal Affairs has a role in delivering whole-of-government solutions in response to local, regional and state-wide issues that are impacting on Aboriginal people and communities. Under OCHRE, Aboriginal Affairs can act as a solution broker across the NSW Government to improve co-ordination, resolve issues, reduce duplication and achieve the best possible outcomes. You can find more information here.
Secretaries Board oversight: the Secretaries Board, a forum made up of the Secretaries of every NSW Government Department, has ultimate oversight over the implementation of OCHRE and receives six monthly reports on its progress from project managers.
Community input: OCHRE publically commits the NSW Government to ensuring that Aboriginal people are involved in the planning, design and evaluation of OCHRE.