Completed Research & Evaluation
Aboriginal Languages and Wellbeing in NSW – an explorative study
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many health and wellbeing benefits for Aboriginal people who speak their heritage language. This
explorative study analysed NSW data from the Australian Census of Population and Housing, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Survey and the National Indigenous Languages Survey collections to identify connections between speaking an Aboriginal language and
Aboriginal wellbeing in NSW. The evidence gained through the study will inform work to achieve the commitments in the Aboriginal
Languages Act 2017. The
study was undertaken in partnership with the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University.
For a national focus, the Australian government’s National Indigenous Languages Report can be found here.
Cultural capability training in the Public Service – a literature review
Cultural capability is a longstanding practice barrier to achieving positive change in the relationship between Aboriginal communities and
the NSW government servants. This explorative literature review brings together what is already known about successful cultural capability
training and is part of an ambitious research program to deliver the evidence needed to develop the cultural capability of NSW public
Undertaken in partnership with the National Centre for Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney the paper finds that: there are
professionally specific skills required to work in Aboriginal contexts including understanding Aboriginal peoples’ culture, history and
contemporary issues and examining personal, societal and institutional values; the definition of cultural capability includes ongoing
self-reflection and development more than the terms cultural awareness and cultural competence; successful cultural capability training
programs incorporate developing attitudes and skills and stimulating capacity to influence change; and the use of pedagogical approaches
such as active learning, group setting and ongoing learning are considered successful in the development of cultural capability training
Aboriginal voices can positively influence the negativity that has characterised the mainstream media’s reporting of the most significant
issues including recognition, human rights, wellbeing, housing, jobs, education and food on the table.
As the fourth pillar of our democracy, media play a central role in providing the public with information, creating awareness and reinforces
deeper narratives, values and beliefs about Aboriginal peoples. As the fourth pillar of our democracy, media play a central role
in providing the public with information, creating awareness and reinforces deeper narratives, values and beliefs about Aboriginal
peoples. Media provide the conditions that support or hinder open, respectful and well-informed discussions about agreement-making
with Aboriginal communities. The individuals and institutions that government seeks advice from including ministers, public officials,
industry bodies and researchers are not immune to discourses.
This research, undertaken in partnership with the University of Technology, Sydney examines key national and NSW media events over
the last 45 years from the 1972 Larrakia petition, to the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. The analysis exposes how the media
frames stories, develops discourses, and supports deeper historical narratives that corrode and undermine the intent and urgency
of Aboriginal aspirations, through approaches ranging from sympathetic stalling to patronising parodies. Does the media fail Aboriginal
political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments
is also available for purchase via the AIATSIS
Recognising Aboriginal political communities in NSW – an explorative study
This explorative study examined the key features of Aboriginal polity, or political communities, in NSW and in four geographically
diverse locations. This study revealed complex, diverse and sophisticated local Aboriginal polities pointing to the need to develop
local solutions rather than ‘one size fits all’ in Aboriginal-government relations. The study was undertaken in partnership with
the University of Technology, Sydney between August and October 2018.
OCHRE is the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs. OCHRE represents an ongoing commitment to fundamentally
change the relationship between the NSW Government and Aboriginal communities through agreement making. To achieve a transformation
in relationships, a greater understanding is required of what needs changing and how the changes can be achieved including the
mechanisms enabling agreed change.
This research, undertaken in collaboration with Black Swan consulting, examines the purpose served by any changed relationship; what
is needed to support positive change; the mechanisms and forms used to achieve the change; how self-government and self-determination
under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are understood and how these concepts support
positive change; the various scales at which relationships are negotiated (e.g. National, State, regional, local); the relationship
between concepts of nation-building and community-building, and variation in views between the major actors.
The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW has published the findings of the evaluation of the Local Decision Making
Accord negotiation process between the Illawarra Wingecarribee Alliance Aboriginal Corporation and NSW Government. Local Decision
Making is an initiative under the OCHRE program. Accords are the vehicle for re-setting the relationship between Aboriginal
communities and government and ensuring that decision-making between government and communities occurs collaboratively and in partnership.
This report increases our understanding of the Accord negotiation process, identifies the strengths of the process, the challenges
encountered, strategies for addressing these challenges and opportunities for improvements. This report is published with the permission
of Illawarra Wingecarribee Alliance Aboriginal Corporation.
The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW has published the findings of the evaluation of the Local Decision Making
Accord negotiation process between the Three Rivers Regional Assembly and NSW Government. Local Decision Making is an initiative
under the OCHRE program. Accords are the vehicle for re-setting the relationship between Aboriginal communities and government
and ensuring that decision-making between government and communities occurs collaboratively and in partnership. This report increases
our understanding of the Accord negotiation process, identifies the strengths of the process, the challenges encountered, strategies
for addressing these challenges and opportunities for improvements. This report is published with the permission of Three Rivers
The New South Wales (NSW) Aboriginal population is one of the fastest growing in the country. Estimates for the total Indigenous population
in the state increased from around 189 000 in 2006 to around 267 000 in 2016. This very rapid growth is likely to lead to a significant
number of policy challenges, and opportunities. The aim of this paper is to use data from the Census of Population and Housing
in 2006, 2011 and 2016, as well as the associated Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset, to analyses the composition and implications
of change in the Aboriginal population in NSW. Undertaken in in partnership with the Centre for Social Research and Methods at
the Australian National University, the paper shows that some, but not all, of the growth in the Aboriginal population between
2006 and 2016 was driven by identification change (a net inflow of people who previously did not identify as being Indigenous but
now do), as well as contributions from births and interstate migration. We also show that, although the Indigenous population in
2016 in NSW had substantially better socioeconomic outcomes than the 2006 and 2011 populations, a significant component of this
improvement was because the newly identified Aboriginal population had more favourable outcomes than the always-identified population.
Working from the inspiration provided by the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Regional Alliances in their report
with recommendations to the NSW Government following Stage One of the OCHRE Evaluation,
this paper explores the ‘threads’ of co-design and community-based participatory research as they relate to
evaluation and research in Aboriginal contexts. The report aims to assist Aboriginal, research and policy
communities in considering and implementing co-design in evaluation and community-based participatory research into
the future. Undertaken in partnership with Black Swan Consulting, this paper provides the following factors to be
keys to success: invest in mutual capacity building, pay attention to context, balance perspectives, co-design takes
time, plan plan and plan some more, and co-design is needed throughout the evaluation not just upfront.
This study continues the examination of the OCHRE evaluation process that so far has looked at the challenges, aspirations, and motivations
of NSW Aboriginal Affairs staff within their dual roles of Aboriginal community member and public servant; and the challenges and
tensions in obtaining local Aboriginal community consent including the meaning of consent, and the management of consent processes.
With the approval of the local Aboriginal communities involved, the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW has published
the findings and recommendations from the evaluation of the implementation and early outcomes OCHRE program. The Social
Policy Research Centre were appointed in 2017 to maintain the continuing conversations about OCHRE with local Aboriginal
communities that commenced in 2012.
There is a full report and a summary report for each of the programs included in the evaluation and a report that synthesises the findings
across these programs.
- Campbelltown Opportunity Hub
- Tamworth Opportunity Hub
- Murdi Paarki Regional Assembly - Local Decision Making
- Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Language and Culture Nest
- North West Wiradjuri Aboriginal Language and Culture Nest
Further information about the evaluation can be found here.
Gaining an Aboriginal community’s permission or agreement for research or evaluation activity goes to the very validity and integrity
of research in Aboriginal contexts. Not only is the principle of ‘informed consent’ consistent with widely accepted ethical practice
in social or human research, but ‘community consent’ is particularly important in Aboriginal contexts given an historical backdrop
of Aboriginal people being either unwillingly subjected to, or unwittingly subjects of, research carried out by outsider institutions.
Undertaken in partnership with Black Swan Consulting, this paper finds five critical success factors regarding Aboriginal community
consent for social research: community empowerment, time, trust, local tailoring, and clear and constant communication.
This guide provides practical support to public servants undertaking or managing research and evaluation activities in Aboriginal affairs
in NSW. By grounding research and evaluation practice with Aboriginal communities from cultural, historical, social, post-colonial
and political dimensions, the guide customises and complements the NSW Government Evaluation Framework. The guide recognises the
challenges faced by Aboriginal public servants in undertaking research and evaluation on Aboriginal Country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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. This project was undertaken in partnership
with the Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW Australia).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This report reviews a number of NSW Government Aboriginal economic development and employment initiatives to determine their effectiveness
in delivering the desired outcomes.
This report explains the approach that will be taken to evaluating local decision making alliances, opportunity hubs, language and
culture nests, and industry-based agreements – all of which are components of the NSW Government’s OCHRE strategy.
This report publishes the findings of an evaluation, conducted in partnership with the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia
(CIRCA), of the negotiations which led to the Murdi Paaki Accord. The report identifies strengths and weaknesses in the process,
and suggests how it can be improved.