The highest level(s) of influence this method typically matches with on the IAP2 public participation spectrum is…


To provide the public with balanced and objective information.


To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions.


To work directly with the public throughout the process.


To partner with the public in each aspect of the decision.


To place final decision making in the hands of the public.

Main Focus
Bring people together
Small (2hrs - 1 day)
Minimal (1-3) staff members
Low cost (under 10k)
Small scale (under 25)

The oral language tradition of the yarning circle is often used among Australian Indigenous communities and is sometimes called Dadirri—inner deep listening to the land.  Watching, listening, and learning through community gatherings, and from direct experiences, are practices that facilitate learning’ (Mills, 2013). 

The use of a yarning circle (or deep listening circle) is an important process within Aboriginal culture and Torres Strait Islander culture. It has been used by Indigenous peoples from around the world for centuries to learn from a collective group, build respectful relationships, and to preserve and pass on cultural knowledge.

A yarning circle is a harmonious, creative and collaborative way of communicating to help foster:

  • responsible, respectful and honest interactions between participants, building trusting relationships
  • accountability and provide a safe place to be heard and to respond
  • person to person interactions and group connectedness 
  • learning experiences for participants.
Please read this information sheet before proceeding.

*IAP2 like many organisations, is on a continuous learning journey with engagement and in particular Maori, Pasifika and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement. We will continue to update this page as we learn and grow and encourage our members to reach out and suggest improvements and updates.

What you'll need

In-person Delivery

  • Carefully selected culturally appropriate venue 
  • Cultural protocols
  • Mini kit of resources

How to guide

Yarning circles can take a number of formats but the following guidelines generally apply when initiating a yarning circle.

Sit in a circle: Participants sit in a circle (ensuring everyone can see one another) and are encouraged to actively listen to others’ views. Participants should understand that they are all considered equal within the circle and that there is no hierarchy.

Introduce the group: The host invites participants to introduce themselves and share something about themselves.

Introduce focus questions: Yarning circles can be undertaken for many reasons. The host introduces the purpose of the yarning circle or the focus question to participants.

Share ideas and thoughts: The host encourages participants to take turns to talk and to promote reciprocal sharing and learning. An artefact can be used to hand around to signal whose turn it is to speak. If anyone has a reaction to the speaker, they must respectfully wait their turn. It is ok to disagree.

Reflect: Explain that participants are aiming for deep listening and being respectful to the speakers — that they need to take the speakers’ words in and think about their meaning. Resolve any actions or issues identified by the yarning circle, or agree to follow up in future yarning circles.

Often these circles are framed as a safe place for all to speak without judgement and interruptions. The conversations within a yarning circle have always focused on strengths and not problem-solving and criticisms.