Programs losing funding under the IAS

In Mid 2014 the new government Indigenous funding model is being rolled out – the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. We note that yet again the new process of funding was developed without consultation with the communities affected or the government’s own advisors who have been reviewing past successful and non successful projects. The Strategy will be implemented from 1 July 2014 with a transition period of 12 months to allow continuity of frontline services and time for communities and service providers to adjust to the new arrangements. The Strategy will replace more than 150 individual programmes and activities with five broad programmes.

For example the report “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous Youth” written 2013 by Melissa R. Haswell, Ilse Blignault, Sally Fitzpatrick and Lisa Jackson Pulver, from Muru Marri, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia provides the following points (p115-6) on what makes projects successful.

In summary, the following factors emerged from this review as being critical for success in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people:

1. Demonstrate strong commitment to broad Indigenous self-determination; 

2. Embrace a deep understanding of Indigenous experience in both past and present and the contexts in which young people live;

3. Recognise, respect and build on the strengths of Indigenous culture, identity, community and family – with built-in flexibility for participants to make it their own;

4. Strive to connect people, share wisdom and experience through stories and creative expression and foster strengths through engaging activities and role modelling;

5. Ensure that both process and content are holistic and encompass the physical, emotional, mental, cultural and spiritual aspects of health;

6. Operate from a long-term commitment and perspective with close attention to workforce development and infrastructure that will ensure sustainability.

This list of factors affecting the success of projects as provided in previous reviews, does not relate to the IAS objectives as provided in their guidelines:

 The objective of the Strategy is to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians, with a particular focus on:

  • Getting Indigenous Australians into work, fostering Indigenous business and ensuring Indigenous people receive economic and social benefits from the effective management of their land and native title rights;
  • Getting  children to school, improving literacy and numeracy and supporting families to give children a good start in life;
  • Increasing Year 12 attainment and pathways to further training and education;
  • Making communities safer so that Indigenous people enjoy similar levels of physical, emotional and social wellbeing as that enjoyed by other Australians;
  • Increasing participation and acceptance of Indigenous Australians in the economic and social life of the nation; and
  • Addressing the disproportionate disadvantage in remote Australia and the need for strategic grant funding for local solutions.

 The Report on Indigenous SWEB continues by explaining:

Programs that have been successful in promoting Indigenous youth Social and emotional well being (SWEB) have embodied the key principles set out in the SEWB Framework (NATSIHC & NMHWG 2005). Although diverse in form/model and in the settings in which they are applied, they share a commitment to Indigenous self-determination, they acknowledge Indigenous history and the need to address the upstream social determinants of SEWB as well as current issues (i.e., sources as well as symptoms), and they recognise and build on the strengths of Indigenous culture, community and family

Successful programs pay careful attention to both content and process; they deliver culturally appropriate content in a culturally appropriate way. The program content is relevant to the Australian Indigenous context, as well as the local Indigenous context; is holistic in approach, encompassing the physical, emotional, mental, cultural and spiritual dimensions of health; and is rooted in respect for Indigenous culture and identity.

The review of programs above confirms the value of strategies that are developed and led by local people (a “bottom-up” approach) and that have an impact at multiple levels. Even where the focus is the individual, strengthening community and culture— including establishing or re-establishing connections with family and country—is a common feature. Sharing stories about challenges experienced and overcome appears to be another important component of the process (both reinforcing and inspiring), and is applicable at each of these levels

Some of the effective programs specifically target young people, while others include them as an important subgroup within a broader community program. Successful programs for school-aged youth adopt a family-inclusive approach, which acknowledges the importance of engaging the young person’s family and of rebuilding and strengthening family connections, and work towards engaging the family as well as the individual. Most successful programs in some way engage the broader community too, bringing to bear the skills and experience of Elders, involving older Indigenous community members as mentors and role models, and drawing on relevant skills and resources from the non-Indigenous sector.

Mainstream models or Indigenous programs imported from other places need to be adapted to the local context. Successful mainstream programs invariably work in partnership with the local Indigenous communities and employ Indigenous staff. National and statewide programs have strong Indigenous representation on steering/ advisory committees. It is critical that non- Indigenous mental health systems and workers respect Indigenous community values

and aspirations and ensure that they are taken into account in their operations and policy making (Collard & Palmer 2006).

Building the skills and qualifications of workers is an issue, and many programs have a training component for staff, in addition to building education and employment pathways for program participants. To ensure continued growth and development, it is important not to take for granted the increased levels of voluntary participation required of Elders and community leaders and the considerable demands that the projects place on organisational infrastructure.

A long-term perspective is also needed. Indigenous youth SEWB programs need to operate at an age-appropriate pace and adopt methods that are not overly bureaucratic and that value the input of the local community, especially the young people of the community.


Palmer D & Collard L 1993, ‘Aboriginal young people and youth subcultures’, in R White (ed), Youth Subcultures: Theory, History, and the Australian Experience, Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Hobart

Melissa R. Haswell, Ilse Blignault, Sally Fitzpatrick and Lisa Jackson Pulver, 2013. The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous Youth, Muru Marri, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW

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