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Policy report

Evaluation and review as drivers of reform in the Indigenous policy domain

Aboriginal people (Australia) First Peoples Policy Program evaluation Australia


This Policy Insights paper seeks to assess the influence of evaluation and review in influencing policy in the Indigenous affairs policy domain. The paper examines four high-level case studies of strategically significant policy issues within the Indigenous policy domain to assess the impact of evaluation in driving reform over time. Proponents of the greater use of evaluation argue that a major problem in the ongoing failure of governments to effectively address comparative Indigenous disadvantage relates to the poor or inadequate use of evaluation. The paper questions the dominant public discourse amongst Commonwealth policymakers on the nature of policy, arguing it is far from linear and mechanistic, and not fully represented by rationalist models. In turn, this makes evaluation of policy initiatives even more challenging. The paper concludes that while there are benefits to evaluation and review, the impact of politics and pervasive structural power imbalances in determining the architecture of strategic policy settings makes policy evaluation and review highly problematic as drivers of policy outcomes and thus as drivers of reform.

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Policy Insights: Special Series 2/2020