In May 2014, legislation was passed to give the NSW Ombudsman an important new role to monitor and assess the delivery of designated Aboriginal programs in NSW, beginning with OCHRE – Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment – the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs, which commenced on 5 April 2013.
This special report to Parliament comprehensively details our assessment of OCHRE over the past five years. It follows on from our 2016 special report to Parliament, Fostering economic development for Aboriginal people in NSW, which informed the development under OCHRE of the Aboriginal Economic Prosperity Framework. We have also published our progressive observations about the implementation of OCHRE in four successive annual reports.
As we detail in Chapter 1, we employed a comprehensive methodology to inform our findings and recommendations. As is always the case with our work examining government service delivery to Aboriginal communities, the most valuable source of both evidence and innovative solutions came from Aboriginal community leaders living in those locations where OCHRE initiatives were operating, who generously gave us their time and insights during our visits to their communities.
We also wish to acknowledge the dedication and commitment shown by Aboriginal Affairs staff who have provided our office with significant information and advice about the implementation of OCHRE over the past five years, as well as executive and frontline staff from other departments and non-government organisations directly involved in implementing OCHRE initiatives, particularly key personnel from the Departments of Education and Premier and Cabinet.
In 2018, the NSW Government announced its intention to ‘refresh’ OCHRE, a process which is likely to take place next year. This report is intended to inform the future of OCHRE by making recommendations aimed at strengthening the delivery and impact of each initiative, and the related governance structures underpinning the overall plan. We also set out what OCHRE has achieved for Aboriginal communities so far, the challenges yet to be addressed, and what else is needed to drive and monitor better social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal people in NSW.