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In good hands (report) 1.8 MB

The evidence in Australia and overseas is compelling. When Aboriginal community organisations receive the support they need and deserve, and have strong purpose and governance, they successfully address the effects of colonisation, dispossession and inter-generational trauma, which are still part of the lived experience of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Support for self-determination is the starting point for the way governments in the United States relate to Native Americans. Other countries with similar histories have found creative ways to foster self-determination for their First Peoples. But in Australia the policy pendulum has in many places swung back towards top-down approaches that disempower communities and often deliver inferior results.

The case studies in this report amply explain why community-based services are well placed to respond to the complex needs of the First Peoples of Australia. The unique network of more than 140 Aboriginal medical services is a prime example of how organisations that are grounded in community can deliver results that improve health outcomes and reduce the demand on the hospital system at the same time. Not only do Aboriginal-led services foster self-determination and thus a sense of control and confidence, supporting this model also means that services are holistic, culturally safe, and more trusted.

Key recommendations:

  • Implement UNDRIP: The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) develop an action plan to implement the selfdetermination provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through a program that mandates this principle in all service delivery for Indigenous peoples.
  • Negotiate Settlements: Federal, state and territory governments legislate frameworks for reaching negotiated settlements with Traditional Owner groups as an alternative to drawn-out legal battles, and support autonomy for First Peoples communities to negotiate treaties and agreements (see Part VII).
  • Preference Indigenous Organisations: Government services for First Peoples preference First Peoples organisations and businesses; where no suitable organisations exist, funding terms must require nonIndigenous recipients to partner with First Peoples organisations and businesses.
  • Transfer Power to Communities: Australian governments transfer power and resources to First Peoples communities through a long-term strategy that matches communities and organisations to service delivery, and builds the capacity of community leaders to manage these entities.
  • Invest in Capacity Building for AMS: The Federal Government invest a minimum $100 million to build the capacity of Aboriginal medical services so that they can fill services gaps, noting that a more substantial commitment over four years may be needed once service mapping is finalised (see Part V).
  • Expand Justice Reinvestment Programs: Australian governments commit to expanding justice reinvestment programs around Australia, and establish a national coordinating body as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report (see Part IV).
  • Employ More Indigenous People in Service Delivery: The corporate sector through peak organisations, together with governments, develop an Indigenous workforce and training strategy to ensure that greater numbers of First Peoples are directly employed in service delivery to First Peoples.
  • Tackle Over-crowded Housing: Develop and deliver a ‘Good Health for Good Housing’ program in partnership with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Authority that will reduceo over-crowding and improve the quality of living conditions for First Peoples.
  • Expand Land and Sea-Based Organisations: Australian governments expand land and sea-based organisations through the Indigenous rangers program, and by developing business opportunities through trusts to support Indigenous communities and businesses in the fishing, timber and natural resource management industries. This strategy must include Traditional Owner-led management and control of Crown land, water and other public natural resources (see Part VI).
  • Strengthen Accountability for Service Delivery: Australian governments create an independent, Aboriginal-led accountability body in each of their jurisdictions that can monitor, investigate and report on funding of services to First Peoples.
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