According to a new Oxfarm report, government policies that empower local Aboriginal communities and build on traditional knowledge and culture to deliver services generally produce better results and should become the policy norm in Australia.
The report, In Good Hands, shows how programs that embrace the principle of self-determination have been rolled out extensively in the United States and other countries with similar historical settings, with better outcomes for Indigenous people than those achieved in Australia.
The report also demonstrates that successive Australian governments have taken a top-down approach and ignored advice from their own experts on how to effectively tackle the systemic disadvantage and poverty that afflicts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The Oxfam report highlights numerous case studies that demonstrate why community-based services are best placed to respond to the complex needs of First Peoples.
Paul Cleary, Oxfam Australia's Indigenous policy and advocacy lead said that one of the motivations behind this report is Oxfarm’s realisation that thousands of Aboriginal services are doing good work that goes unnoticed or are not rewarded.
“Unfortunately, this (the good work) is happening under the radar. The public often hears about things when they go wrong, they don’t hear about the good work that is being done,” Paul Cleary said in our conversation.
The unique network of more than 140 Aboriginal medical services is a prime example of how trusted organisations that are grounded in community and culture deliver results that improve health outcomes - and at the same time can reduce the demand on the hospital system
The report highlights that despite these results, many Aboriginal organisations are forced to navigate a never-ending treadmill of grant applications and changing funding streams to keep their lights on and staff paid.