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.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Indigenous people of Australia. They are not one group but comprise hundreds of groups that have their own distinct set of languages, histories and cultural traditions.
The United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls on states to obtain free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people through their representative institutions before adopting legislative or administrative measures that would affect them. The Declaration provides an international framework of engagement best practice.
Agencies and engagement practitioners should work closely with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues, organisations and networks in order to design the most appropriate timelines and methods of engagement. ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not respond best to didactic or ‘stand and deliver’ modes of communication’. (Human Rights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Engagement Toolkit, 2012). ‘Effective engagement is a sustained process that provides Indigenous people with the opportunity to actively participate in decision making from the earliest stage of defining the problem to be solved.’ (AIHW 2013)
Context is important to inform your approach, such as:
- which state or territory are you located,
- who are the Aboriginal custodians and elders,
- who are the traditional owner organisations, registered Aboriginal parties, land councils, native title holders,
- is the setting remote, rural, regional or urban,
- does the topic directly affect these communities,
- what do we know about our local Aboriginal communities and what do we need to learn,
- the cultural protocols around the use of deceased person’s images.
There are some excellent reference materials available to help inform your method selection and especially the principles that need to underpin your engagement approach. Engaging early, meeting on country, and respecting Aboriginal Community decision making processes are some common principles.
Other principles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement includes the following:
- an appreciation of—and the cultural competency to respond to—Indigenous history, cultures and contemporary social dynamics and to the diversity of Indigenous communities; valuing the cultural skills and knowledge of community organisations and Indigenous people.
- clarity about the purpose and the relevant scale for engagement, which may call for multi-layered processes: engagement needs to relate to Indigenous concepts of wellbeing.
- long-term relationships of trust, respect and honesty as well as accessible, ongoing communication and information.
- engagement involves Indigenous agency and decision making, a deliberative and negotiated process, not just information giving or consultation, and it starts early in the program or project development.
- engagement seeks to understand Indigenous aspirations and priorities.
- power inequalities are recognised, and sincere attempts are made to share power, through contracts or agreements; decision-making processes and agreed conflict resolution mechanisms are transparent. Unequal power in relationships can be reduced by strong mutual accountability relationships in agreements.
(Engaging with Indigenous Australia— exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities 2013. Closing the Gap)
Where to go for more information and guidance
Below are a number of useful resources to help you plan your engagement. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Please consult with the appropriate Aboriginal engagement resources before choosing your engagement methods. They aim to help you choose the most appropriate methods to use in partnership with Aboriginal communities to progress the issues.
*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 also reach out and suggest improvements and updates.