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Completed research


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Aboriginal Land Recovery in New South Wales: Historical legacies and opportunities for change

In this report, Dr Heidi Norman from the University of Technology Sydney, examines the historical and current policy context relevant to the return of public lands to Aboriginal control or ownership in NSW. The paper provides an overview of the emerging issues, including the urgent need for policy reform and program innovation resulting from the escalation of land recovery over the next five to seven years, the centrality of Aboriginal peoples in development and planning and conservation, the enormous potential for Aboriginal land rights to create cultural, social and economic opportunities for Aboriginal people, and the tensions between the Aboriginal Land Rights and Native Title Acts. The report indicates that new insights are needed to assist Aboriginal groups to manage an expanded Aboriginal estate. This management would need to consider conservation, culture heritage management, industry and development imperatives, as well as any intra-community contests over governance.


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Literature review of approaches to Aboriginal affairs policies & case study of OCHRE development & implementation

Policy development relating to Aboriginal people in NSW has undergone significant and fundamental changes in approach in the last thirty to forty years. During 2012 and 2013, the NSW Government developed a new Aboriginal affairs policy. The policy, known as OCHRE, was developed within a framework of co-production between the Government and Aboriginal communities that included over 2,700 Aboriginal people in NSW.

So as to fully understand the successes and challenges in developing the OCHRE policy, and its subsequent implementation, the McKell Institute were commissioned in 2017 to conduct a process evaluation. The study points to the importance and complexities of genuine co-design with Aboriginal people. Findings suggest that success requires attention to timeframes, workforce, leadership, maintaining buy-in over time, accountability, and working within Aboriginal communities ways of knowing and doing. The report concludes that while other jurisdictions have attempted co-design “OCHRE stands alone in its scale and ambition”.

The case study is complemented by a literature review. Assessing the approach used in government policy development in Aboriginal affairs in NSW over the last 30-40 years the review highlights the major initiatives and structure of Aboriginal affairs policy in the state in modern times, and notes the unique nature of OCHRE in contrast to earlier policy development approaches.


Review of State-wide Industry Based Agreements

State-wide industry based Agreements (IBAs) are public commitments from peak industry bodies and the NSW Government to forge long term partnerships that will strengthen economic prosperity and independence in local Aboriginal communities. A review of learnings and achievements from the operation of IBAs has been completed by The Centium Group Pty Ltd. The review suggests that the program would benefit from the involvement of Aboriginal communities at all stages, stronger program governance and accountability arrangements, a customised Program Logic Model for each IBA, and promotion of the learnings from the actions plans.


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Rhetoric to Reality: Devolving decision-making to Aboriginal communities

This research project explored the devolution of decision-making power from the NSW public service to Aboriginal communities, focusing on the structural and attitudinal changes required within the NSW public service to deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal communities. The findings suggest that devolution could be achieved through strengthening the career paths for Aboriginal public servants, increasing the cultural competency of public servants tailored to local contexts, including through building stronger relationships with Aboriginal communities, and encouraging public sector leaders to demonstrate a commitment and visibility in developing cultural competence for themselves and their staff. The project was undertaken in partnership between Aboriginal Affairs and students from the ANZSOG Executive Masters Program, under the supervision of the University of Sydney.


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Insiders, Outsiders, Side-by-Siders: Adopting a normative approach to respond to parallel forces for change in evaluation of Indigenous-related public policies and program

This 2016 study, undertaken in partnership with Black Swan Consulting, examined the challenges, aspirations, and motivations of NSW Aboriginal Affairs staff in monitoring and evaluation spaces within their dual roles of Aboriginal community member and public servant. The study found that Aboriginal public servants could play a more constructive and enabling role in breaking down the barriers that get in the way of developing the rigorous evidence required to develop appropriate policy and practice responses. Achieving this requires re-thinking the ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ paradigm. The paper concludes that the latter is unlikely to deliver the shared pool of expertise needed in the Aboriginal affairs public evaluation space, and that the former would be assisted through professional development that equips Aboriginal public servants with knowledge and skill in culturally appropriate research and evaluation.


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Evaluation theories and approaches; relevance for Aboriginal context

This report provides the key findings of a literature review undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW Australia) to inform the methodological and ethical approach to the OCHRE evaluation. The report provides an overview of research and evaluation paradigms, the different types of evaluations, and the different stances taken to discern between these types of evaluations. The review has a particular focus on Indigenous evaluation theory and practice. The authors note that research and evaluation has tended to be viewed with hostility and suspicion by most Indigenous communities, although this can be mitigated through community controlled approaches. The recent growth in decolonising research approaches has led to the development of strict protocols and standards for researchers undertaking research in Indigenous communities. However, the research literature has acknowledged that achieving these standards can be very challenging, and that some are in tension with each other. Furthermore, there is little consideration about how to implement these standards in practice. Although the literature recognises that qualitative research methods have been traditionally favoured in Indigenous research and evaluation projects, the use of quantitative and economic evaluation methods is increasing, and can be used effectively if implemented in accordance with community protocols. The review concludes by recognising the potential for research and evaluation to be used as a resource for Aboriginal communities to advocate for their needs, for self-determination, and for the maintenance of language and culture.


Collection of NSW Aboriginal public policy, work in progress

With the input of NSW government departments, a collection of public policies relating to Aboriginal affairs in NSW has been established. The policies included in the collection are those identified by the departments and operational in August 2015. The collection provides information on the geographic coverage, target population and policy focus. The collection is a work in progress and will be updated as additional information becomes available. This project was undertaken in partnership with the Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW Australia).


Income Management approaches and alternatives

This report provides the results of a review of the literature on income management including benefits to individuals or communities, unintended consequences, and whether its aims could be achieved through other means. The authors conclude that no study has demonstrated that income management has resulted in improved parenting practices and child wellbeing for the mainstream population or for Aboriginal communities. Further, that managing a family’s income through income management may not be the most suitable policy to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and their communities. The authors recommend caution on the use of income management for Aboriginal children and their communities and support alternative programs that have an established evidence base. The review was undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW Australia) and the Parenting Research Centre.


A review of knowledge and meaning for Aboriginal peoples in NSW

Undertaken in partnership with Professor Kerry Arabena in 2015, this review of the literature provides insights and draws conclusions about how Aboriginal peoples in NSW construct meaning, interpret their world, and assert their world view in the context of the predominant Western way of thinking.


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Australian frameworks describing the Aboriginal population

Undertaken in partnership with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2015, this project examined Australian frameworks, including those under development, that describe the Aboriginal population. It includes information on why a framework was developed initially and how it has changed over time; who was consulted in its development; the protocols, principles, theories and practicalities underpinning the framework; its purpose and structure; the extent to which it includes the perspectives, views, knowledge systems and aspirations of Aboriginal peoples; and the outcome of any evaluations.


Attitudes towards Aboriginal Australians

Using existing data from the Reconciliation Barometer in 2012 and 2014 and ANUPoll in 2014, this study explores attitudes towards issues related to Aboriginal Australians both nationally and in NSW. The study was undertaken in partnership with the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research in 2015.


Aboriginal family violence

This review of the literature in 2014 was undertaken in partnership with Dr Kyllie Cripps and Julian Laurens, of the University of NSW’s Indigenous Law Centre. It examined the nature, extent, causes and impact of Aboriginal family and domestic violence in NSW and current responses in NSW and beyond. The authors identified significant gaps in the knowledge base, including a dearth of accurate statistics, too little research focused specifically on Aboriginal families and communities, and few robust evaluations of programs and approaches on which evidence-based responses can be built.


Aboriginal identification in NSW: the way forward. An Aboriginal peoples’ perspective

In 2013, Aboriginal Affairs undertook a study of the propensity of Aboriginal people in the state to identify as Aboriginal when seeking or receiving a government service. The study sought to understand what affected this decision, and how more Aboriginal people might be encouraged to identify as Aboriginal. This report provides the study findings.


The Aboriginal population of NSW in 2015: Policy options and challenges

The report provides the results of a scan of trends in NSW, and where relevant, broader demographic, economic and social environments, to identify emerging issues relevant to Aboriginal people in NSW.

Undertaken in partnership with the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University, the report identifies 19 areas of policy relevance, including demography, the economy, education, health and well-being, heritage, and justice and protection. It highlights areas for policy consideration, with reference to relevant literature and data.


Understanding Aboriginal identification in NSW: Evidence from the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset

The Aboriginal population in NSW is estimated to be the largest in the country and one of the fastest growing. Part of this growth appears to be driven by residents of NSW who were not identified as Indigenous in the 2006 Census, but were identified as such in the 2011 Census. Aboriginal Affairs NSW, in partnership with the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University, investigated the demographic characteristics of the NSW populations that were identified as Indigenous in either the 2006 or the 2011 Census. The paper publishes the results, which shed light on this identification change.


Mapu yaan gurri, mapu marrunggirr: Healing our way

Published in partnership with the Healing Foundation, this report outlines the issues and outcomes from the OCHRE Healing Forum held on 23 July 2014. The forum provided a platform where policy makers – who influence the way their organisation thinks about and responds to healing – could engage in a broad and open discussion with Aboriginal community members and service providers who are involved every day in trauma and healing practices.


Aboriginal languages project

The Aboriginal languages project explores the connection between the teaching of Aboriginal languages and culture and the benefits to community well-being and engagement with the education system. Dr Shayne Williams has produced two papers.


The importance of teaching and learning Aboriginal languages and cultures: A mid-study impression paper

Dr Shayne Williams conducted a literature-based research study to explore the links between Aboriginal languages and cultures, Aboriginal community well-being and Aboriginal engagement with the education system. Citing a Canadian study which found a direct link between the speaking of an Indigenous language and a reduction in Indigenous youth suicide rates, Dr Williams concludes that Indigenous language use, as a marker of cultural persistence, is a strong predictor of health and well-being in Canada’s Aboriginal communities.


The importance of teaching and learning Aboriginal languages and cultures. The triangularity between language and culture, educational engagement and community cultural health and well-being

This paper provides the theoretical, informal and research-based evidence within international, national and NSW literature analysing the triangularity between the teaching and learning of Indigenous languages and cultures, educational engagement, participation and scholastic success, and community health and well-being.


The stolen generations. The removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969

First published in 1981, this paper by Professor Peter Read documents the removal of Aboriginal children in NSW between 1883 and 1969, and its enduring effects.


NSW Government’s employment and economic development programs for Aboriginal people: Review of programs and broader considerations

This report reviews a number of NSW Government Aboriginal economic development and employment initiatives to determine their effectiveness in delivering the desired outcomes.