SNAICC has produced a submission in response to the Productivity Commission’s draft Indigenous Evaluation Strategy for Australian Government policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While the Strategy is intended to primarily guide Australian Government agencies when they are selecting, planning, commissioning, conducting and using evaluation, in practice it applies to everyone involved in the evaluation of Australian Government policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Overview of the Indigenous Evaluation Strategy
The objective of the Indigenous Evaluation Strategy is to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by having policy and program decisions informed by high quality and relevant evaluation evidence.
The overarching principle of the Strategy is centering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, perspectives, priorities and knowledges. This principle is about recognising the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities, knowledges and cultures. It is also about building genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to define policy and program outcomes, decide on evaluation questions, how evaluations will be conducted and how evaluation findings will be interpreted.
The Strategy presents a valuable opportunity to establish clear standards for evaluation practice and opportunities to capture outcomes that may be currently slipping through the cracks. As it currently stands, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have minimal input into evaluations.
It is reported that only one-fifth of evaluations of Indigenous-specific policies and programs reported engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in evaluation decision making.
Strengthening Aboriginal community-controlled decision making
SNAICC has worked tirelessly over many years to forge trusted and meaningful relationships with a wide range of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) and broader sector stakeholders. This allows us to effectively understand the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal children and families and communities more broadly.
While SNAICC is strongly supportive of the government’s increased focus on lifting the bar concerning evaluation practice, agencies are likely to need an abundance of resources and support to enable them to build a better fundamental relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a starting point. It will be very challenging for agencies to increase their level of quality dialogue and engagement with communities, without investing in initiatives that aim to strengthen relationships and build trust within communities fundamentally.
SNAICC strongly advocates for an increased focus on initiatives that will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to have a greater voice and role in defining what success means to them.
Recommendation 1: That the Strategy is supported by increased investment in targeted cultural competency training and capacity strengthening of key government agencies to build effective and trusted relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders, sectors and communities as a critical starting point. It cannot be assumed that success and improvements will occur organically, within existing resource constraints or by simply applying greater effort or focus on it as a mere objective.
Recommendation 2: That the new Office for Indigenous Evaluation design and administer a merit based independent assessment tool to assess existing capacity and evaluation proficiency amongst key government agencies, including measuring them against fundamental aspects such as cultural competency.
Recommendation 3: Establish minimum Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets for staffing the OIPE, including ensuring that it’s Chief Executive or leader is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person.
Recommendation 4: Require that the Indigenous Evaluation Council have 100% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander membership, in line with the principle of self-determination.
Recommendation 5: That the strategy includes an additional action to invest in and support the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled agencies to monitor and evaluate their programs and contribute to broader government agency evaluation processes.
Recommendation 6: That the proposed Office of Indigenous Evaluation administer a dedicated fund for increasing the evaluation capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled agencies.
Recommendation 7: That the strategy includes an additional action to support the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community or regional level structures and capacity to increase access to and use of evaluation and outcomes data to inform policy and program design locally. Given the cross-cutting nature of this action, it could be best led by the proposed Office of Indigenous evaluation.
Read the full submission: SNAICC Submission to the Productivity Commission Draft Indigenous Evaluation Strategy (August 2020)