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Social Justice Report 2006: Chapter 3: Addressing the fundamental flaw of the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs – the absence of principled engagement with Indigenous peoples

Social Justice Report 2006

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  • Chapter 3: Addressing the fundamental flaw of the new
    arrangements for Indigenous affairs – the absence of principled engagement
    with Indigenous peoples

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    This is the third successive Social Justice Report to report on the
    implementation of the new arrangements for Indigenous affairs at the federal
    government level. The past two Social Justice Reports have emphasised the
    importance of governments ensuring the effective participation of Indigenous
    peoples in decision making that affects our lives. This includes the development
    of policy, program delivery and monitoring by governments at the national, as
    well as state, regional and local levels.

    The Social Justice Report 2005 expressed significant concerns about
    the lack of progress in ensuring processes were operating to ensure the
    participation of Indigenous peoples in policy, particularly at the regional and
    national levels. The report also provided a stern warning about the implications
    of failing to address this issue as an urgent priority. It stated that the
    ‘absence of processes for Indigenous representation at all levels of
    decision making contradicts and undermines the purposes of the new
    arrangements’.[1] The report
    called for principled engagement with Indigenous peoples as a fundamental
    tenet of federal policy making.

    This chapter does three things.

    First, it provides an update on the progress made over the past twelve months
    in ensuring the ‘maximum participation of Aboriginal persons and Torres
    Strait Islanders in the formulation and implementation of government policies
    that affect them’ with a particular emphasis on developments at the
    national and regional level. It is clear that the mechanisms for Indigenous
    participation in the new arrangements remain inadequate. Indeed this ongoing
    failure to ensure Indigenous participation in decision making is the fundamental
    flaw in the implementation of the new arrangements.

    Second, it looks to developments at the local level through Shared
    Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) to see how this program of activities is
    unfolding. Substantial effort has been devoted to this program of small scale
    interventions. This can be justified if it provides a pathway to improving
    existing mechanisms for engaging with Indigenous communities at the local level
    and identifying the crucial barriers to sustainable development within
    communities. It is reasonable to expect such lessons after two years of solid
    engagement.

    The chapter examines progress under the SRA program by engaging with those
    people affected most by them – namely, the Indigenous communities who have
    entered into SRAs. This is achieved through a series of interviews with three
    SRA communities and through analysing the results of a national survey of two
    thirds of those Indigenous communities or organisations that had entered into an
    SRA by the end of 2005.

    Third, the chapter looks to ways forward which address the significant
    concerns that are set out in the chapter. As the chapter makes clear, Government
    commitments exist to ensure the maximum participation of Indigenous peoples in
    decision-making and these commitments have been consistently re-affirmed. The
    concerns in this chapter reflect a problem of implementation of these
    commitments.

    The absence of appropriate mechanisms for the participation of Indigenous
    peoples in the new arrangements is a significant policy failure. It is
    inconsistent with our human rights obligations, existing federal legislation,
    and the government’s own policies.

    The immediate impact of this policy failure is to render Indigenous voices
    silent on new policy developments, in the legislative reform process and in the
    setting of basic policy parameters and the delivery of basic services to
    Indigenous communities. The chapter emphasises the potential danger of the new
    arrangements to the well being of Indigenous peoples, if the concerns raised in
    this report are not addressed as an urgent priority.

    Developments in ensuring the ‘maximum participation
    of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders in the formulation and
    implementation of government policies that affect them’

    The importance of regional Indigenous participatory mechanisms in the
    new arrangements

    The legislation which forms the foundation for the new arrangements, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), has as one of its
    objectives ‘to ensure maximum participation of Aboriginal persons and
    Torres Strait Islanders in the formulation and implementation of government
    policies that affect
    them’.[2]

    The government has continually emphasised the importance of ensuring such
    participation as an integral component of its arrangements for Indigenous
    Affairs. In June 2005, the then Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and
    Indigenous Affairs confirmed that the government remained committed to
    establishing representative bodies at the regional level:

    We have always stated that, following the dissolution of ATSIC Regional
    Councils from July 1 this year, there will be room for genuine Indigenous
    representative bodies to emerge in their
    place.[3]

    This commitment has been constantly re-iterated by the Government since. They
    have stated that through regional Indigenous Coordination
    Centres, ‘the Australian government is committed to real engagement with
    Indigenous people in the areas where they
    live’.[4]

    The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has also
    stated that:

    We aim to make it simpler for Indigenous people to deal with government. We
    want to show respect by encouraging them to be active participants in solving
    their own problems...

    (T)he one-size-fits-all approach will not work. We need different strategies
    for urban, rural and remote areas. Indeed we must recognise that every
    individual community is different and that local solutions need to be designed
    with local people to suit their local
    circumstances.[5]

    The Government has emphasised that the new arrangements are intended to
    ensure that programs are ‘being implemented more flexibly in response to
    local Indigenous needs’ and that ‘Indigenous communities at the
    local and regional level... have more say in how (funding) is
    spent’.[6]

    In their implementation, the new arrangements are
    underpinned by five key principles. These include:

    2. Regional and local need

    ICCs are talking directly with Indigenous communities and groups about their
    priorities and needs and their longer term vision for the future. Shared
    responsibility Agreements (SRAs) may result from these discussions...

    The Australian government is also progressing negotiations on Regional
    Partnership

    Agreements (RPAs) to tailor government interventions across a region. RPAs
    can also provide a framework for recognising the range of regional Indigenous
    engagement arrangements that develop around Australia.

    5. Leadership

    Strong leadership is required to make the arrangements work, both within
    government and from Indigenous people.

    The regional engagement arrangements that Indigenous people establish will
    provide leadership and be accountable to the people and communities they
    represent.

    Where Indigenous leadership capacity and organisational governance need to be
    strengthened, the Australian government can provide
    support.[7]

    What is clear from this is that the Government has acknowledged that
    mechanisms for Indigenous participation at the regional level are essential if
    the whole of government model it is seeking to implement is to work.

    Regional Indigenous participatory mechanisms have an essential role in the
    new arrangements as the link in the chain that connects policy making from the
    top to service delivery that is relevant and appropriate at the grass roots. It
    is essential to identify local need and to facilitate regional planning and
    coordination.

    In materials explaining the operation of the new service delivery
    arrangements, the Government explains the role and importance of regional
    engagement arrangements and agreement-making processes to facilitate
    partnerships between Indigenous peoples and governments. Regional Partnership
    Agreements are seen as a key mechanism to achieve this. The Government’s
    approach is described as follows:

    Through ICCs, the Australian government has been consulting with
    Indigenous communities and state/territory governments about regional solutions to
    regional needs.

    Regional Partnership Agreements (RPAs) are negotiated to coordinate
    government services and deliver initiatives across several communities in a
    region. They are a means of eliminating overlaps or gaps, and promoting
    collaborative effort to meet identified regional needs and priorities. They may
    also involve industry and non-government organisations.

    RPAs also seek to build communities’ capacity to control their own
    affairs, negotiate with government, and have a real say in their region’s
    future.

    RPAs may include shared responsibility Agreements (SRAs) with local
    communities or groups that support the objectives of the
    RPA.[8]

    RPAs are a tool to facilitate and recognise regional Indigenous engagement
    arrangements. As the Government explains:

    Regional Indigenous engagement arrangements are evolving in a number of
    regions to help Indigenous people talk to government and participate in program
    and service delivery. These engagement arrangements are a mechanism for making
    and implementing agreements between government and Indigenous people based on
    the principles of partnership, shared responsibility and self-reliance.

    The Australian government does not want to impose structures but will support
    and work with arrangements that are designed locally or regionally and accepted
    by Indigenous people as their way to engage with government.

    The government has supported consultation with Indigenous people about the
    types of engagement arrangements they want. Communities need time to think
    through these issues, and views differ widely across regions on the most
    appropriate models.

    In Western Australia and New South Wales, the Australian and state
    governments are already supporting new engagement arrangements in the Warburton
    and Murdi Paaki regions respectively.

    Bilateral agreements with state and territory governments are also pointing
    to a variety of approaches to regional engagement. These approaches include
    regional authorities in the Northern Territory and ‘negotiation
    tables’ in Queensland.

    Regional Partnership Agreements are a primary mechanism for government to
    provide funding for regional Indigenous engagement arrangements. More regional
    Indigenous engagement agreements are likely to be finalised as indigenous groups
    negotiate with the Australian and other governments on their funding.[9]

    Regionally based Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICCs) provide the interface
    with Indigenous communities for the establishment of regional indigenous
    engagement arrangements and the finalisation of RPAs. To assist in this process
    the Government has created four panels of experts to support ICCs, including for
    the specific task of ‘developing regional engagement
    arrangements’.[10]

    Similarly, a ‘multiuse list of community
    facilitators/coordinators’ has also been created to compliment the more
    specialised and technical services of the Panels of Experts. Members of the
    Multiuse List are intended to create links between communities and governments,
    coordinate and develop service delivery, support communities and specific
    groups, such as women and youth, in identifying their priorities, in negotiating
    agreements with government, and in developing new regional engagement
    arrangements.[11]

    Progress in supporting Indigenous engagement at the regional
    level

    Last year’s Social Justice Report provided an extensive overview
    of developments towards the establishment of regional Indigenous representative
    bodies.

    The report noted the considerable progress that had been made in negotiating
    regional representative arrangements and structures. It reported that
    consultations had been conducted across many regions to identify replacement
    representative structures during the year, and that OIPC had provided funds
    through the ICCs for Indigenous peoples to convene local and regional meetings
    to discuss options for new regional representative
    arrangements.[12]

    An overview of progress on a state-by-state basis showed that there were
    promising developments in determining culturally appropriate regional
    representative models, although there were gaps and problems with some of the
    models.[13] I emphasised the need to
    finalise and operationalise representative organisations where negotiations were
    largely complete, and to make greater progress in other areas where models had
    not yet been finalised.

    Overall, I found the situation to be of some concern:

    The consequence of the current status of these models is that there are few
    mechanisms for Indigenous participation at the regional
    level...[14]

    Addressing the absence of regional representative structures is an urgent
    priority for the 2005-06 financial year. It would be wholly unacceptable for
    regional structures to not exist and not be operational in all ICC regions by
    the end of this period.[15]

    The report recommended that the Australian government, in partnership with
    state and territory governments, prioritise, with Indigenous peoples, the
    negotiation of regional representative arrangements and that Representative
    bodies should be finalised and operational by 30 June 2006 in all Indigenous
    Coordination Centre regions.[16]

    At that time, the Government had finalised one RPA that recognised the
    Ngaanyatjarra Council as the representative body for 12 communities spread
    across the Ngaanyatjarra lands in Western Australia.

    It had also finalised a Shared Responsibility Agreement which recognised the
    Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly as the peak regional Indigenous body in the Murdi
    Paaki region of far north-west New South Wales. It is understood that the Murdi
    Paaki Regional Assembly is now close to signing a RPA to formalise strategic
    planning arrangements proposed through community planning processes undertaken
    as part of the SRA.

    In brief, it is worth recalling developments relating to the creation of
    regional representative structures as they stood 12 months ago:

    • The government, through ICCs, supported consultations with Indigenous
      communities to identify replacement regional representative structures following
      the abolition of ATSIC;
    • At 30 June 2005, when ATSIC Regional Councils ceased to exist, no
      replacement representative structures were in place;
    • The then Minister announced on 29 June 2005 that representative arrangements
      had been ‘finalised’ in 10 of the 35 ICC regions, with consultation
      and negotiation ongoing in other
      regions;[17] and
    • All State and territory governments had indicated their support for regional
      representation in their jurisdictions (based on different models).

    As the Social Justice Report 2005 noted, ‘common to
    all the existing proposals (for regional structures) is that the federal
    government has not as yet outlined in concrete terms how they will support
    them’.[18] In particular,
    there was no clarity as to how regional bodies would be funded and the type and
    level of administrative support they would be provided. The report noted that
    Regional Partnership Agreements provided an appropriate model for developing
    regional structures.

    Throughout the past twelve months, the government has continued to state that
    it is committed to establishing regional representative structures. In
    correspondence with my Office in December 2006, the Office of Indigenous Policy
    Coordination stated that RPAs are the primary mechanism for formally engaging
    with Indigenous peoples and communities at a regional level, and that they:

    ... are a way of harnessing the potential of communities in a region through
    genuine partnerships involving many sectors, backed by a serious commitment of
    resources.[19]

    As discussed further below, commitments to ensure Indigenous participation
    and engagement are also contained in each bilateral agreement between the
    Australian government and the states and territories.

    The Government also released guidelines indicating the parameters of what
    support they would provide for regional structures. These guidelines were for
    ‘Regional Indigenous Engagement Arrangements’ (RIEA) and were
    intended to:

    ... [P]rogress RIEA proposals that are consistent with the Australian
    Government’s principles of partnership, shared responsibility and
    self-reliance, and to provide feedback to communities on proposals that are not
    consistent with the Australian Government’s
    objectives.[20]

    A notable feature of these guidelines is that they do not use the phrase
    ‘representative structures’. This language of representation had
    been acceptable during the first year of the new arrangements. Importantly, the
    various proposals submitted to the government before 30 June 2005 were for
    replacement representative structures.

    The RIEA guidelines therefore elaborate the shift by the Government from
    supporting ‘representation’ to supporting ‘engagement
    arrangements’. The parameters for Australian Government funding set out in
    the guidelines are as follows:

    • Initial Australian Government funding be capped and limited to one year
      after which further support be negotiated through RPAs;
    • Funds support meeting costs such as travel but not sitting fees or
      remuneration;
    • State and Territory Governments participate through RPAs or bilateral
      agreements;
    • The Government retain the right to engage directly with communities or other
      bodies;
    • The Government be assured of the legitimacy of RIEAs among their
      constituents; and
    • RIEAs not be ‘gatekeepers’ or have decision-making
      responsibilities concerning Indigenous program
      funding.[21]

    A second key feature of the guidelines is that they substantially
    reduce the scope of what the federal government would consider supporting and
    funding. Regional Indigenous Engagement Arrangements will only get funding
    support for a year, after which time any further support must be negotiated
    through a Regional Partnership Agreement. Whilst this does not necessarily
    preclude organisations with a degree of permanency, it shows that engagement
    arrangements are to be contingent on RPAs.

    The shift in focus that the guidelines present is problematic in that various
    proposals were prepared prior to these guidelines being made public and
    available. Indeed, the guidelines were in all likelihood developed as a response
    to concerns by the government about the content of the proposals developed prior
    to 30 June 2005.

    This means that proposals submitted by Indigenous communities would be
    assessed against guidelines that the proponents were unaware of and which would
    require a much narrower and restricted proposal for support to be forthcoming.

    The document outlining the guidelines made clear that the guidelines outlined
    would be utilised ‘to progress RIEA proposals’ such as the 18 that
    had been received at the time. This suggests that the Government would engage
    with the proponents of regional models to consider their proposals in light of
    the government guidelines.

    Over the past eighteen months and since the adoption of these guidelines, the
    Government has finalised two RPAs – in Port Hedland and the East Kimberly
    (both signed in November 2006).

    Neither of these agreements relate to supporting Regional Indigenous
    Engagement Arrangements. Instead, they are the result of negotiations within two
    trial sites under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government and
    the Minerals Council of Australia.

    The MoU with the Minerals Council is about building partnerships between the
    government, mining sector and Indigenous communities. The MoU negotiation
    process involved local Indigenous leaders through the Indigenous Leaders
    Dialogue
    - a forum through which local Indigenous leaders advise the MCA
    about Indigenous aspirations and anticipated outcomes from the MoU.

    Case studies of these RPAs are included in the Native Title Report 2006. The Report notes that a concern during the
    negotiation of the RPAs was the lack of sufficient Indigenous engagement. In
    relation to the East Kimberly RPA, the Native Title Report 2006 states that:

    From the outset, parties to the RPA saw it as an initiative of the Australian
    Government. There is evidence that the negotiation processes were run according
    to the Government’s own agenda and plans were hastily developed in a rush
    to meet fixed deadlines leaving other parties feeling pressured to follow for
    fear of being left behind... The level of community engagement (on the RPA) is
    regarded as greatly inadequate.

    As a result of the lack of
    engagement with Indigenous people, there is a critical lack of understanding
    within the community about the RPA, and what it aims to deliver.For
    example, there was reported confusion between the RPA and other changes to
    regional governance arrangements including changes to the Community Development
    Employment Project. This kind of confusion has the potential to skew commitment
    and expectations of the RPA, and may lead to dissatisfaction with outcomes. In
    addition, as long as communities are uncertain about the nature of the RPA, they
    will be unable to take advantage of the opportunities it
    creates.[22]

    Aside from these RPAs emanating from the MoU with the Minerals Council, no
    other RPAs have progressed in the past eighteen months.

    In researching this report, my Office sought to contact the proponents of
    proposed regional arrangements that had been identified by the Minister for
    Indigenous Affairs as ‘finalised’ in June 2005. My purpose was to
    identify what had transpired over the past 12-18 months and whether the
    proposals as submitted had been considered and what advice had been provided
    back to the proponents of these bodies in order to advance them (consistent with
    the commitment given by the government when it announced its guidelines for
    RIEAs).[23]

    Those proposals that had been identified as ‘finalised’ related
    to the following ICC regions:

    • Many Rivers, Northern NSW;
    • Gulf and West Queensland;
    • Central Queensland;
    • Cairns and District Reference Group;
    • East Kimberly District Council;
    • Kullari Regional Indigenous Body;
    • Yamatji Regional Assembly;
    • Nulla Wimla Kutja;
    • Ngaanyatjarra Council; and
    • Murdi Paaki Regional
      Assembly.[24]

    In Hansard in federal Parliament in May 2006 the Government stated
    that two arrangements had been established and were receiving funding support
    from the Australian Government and sixteen other reports from Indigenous groups
    had been received by the Australian Government for
    consideration.[25]

    Information on progress was sought initially from the relevant ICCs and the
    Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination. For some of the proposed regional
    structures, the ICCs advised that they had no contact information for the
    proponents of the models and that there had been no activity to advance
    discussions within the region over the past year.

    In a regular request for information to the OIPC that I make for each Social Justice Report I also specifically requested a region by region
    update on progress in advancing RIEAs and in consideration of proposals that had
    been submitted to OIPC through the ICCs. The OIPC provided no response to this
    question.[26]

    Discussions with Indigenous community members who had been involved in
    proposing structures for these regions also revealed that little progress had
    occurred in progressing RIEAs. Part of the difficulty in this was the fact that
    most of the models had been presented by, or were facilitated by, the relevant
    ATSIC Regional Council prior to their abolition. Accordingly, there is now no
    institutional structure in place to progress the proposals made.

    Various community members noted that the process of negotiating an RIEA had
    not progressed due to a lack of communication from the OIPC and ICC, with the
    proponents not hearing from the local ICC regarding their
    proposal,[27] no financial support
    from any level of government to facilitate progressing the proposal, lack of
    communication on the proposal between the state or territory government and the
    federal government, and/ or a lack of support for the proposal by the state or
    territory government.[28]

    The Government explains the current absence of consultative mechanisms as
    follows:

    Mr Yates - There was quite a lot of work done in the follow-up to the
    abolition of the ATSIC regional councils, typically in conjunction with state or
    territory governments where they were reviewing representative arrangements or
    machinery for engagement with government. So there has been quite a lot of work
    done over the last couple of years, but they have not all translated into
    replacement arrangements. As far as possible we were looking to try and support
    arrangements which both levels of government would be backing rather than having
    multiple layers. Our focus in terms of the future has been on, at the regional
    level, the engagement that we are having there where that translates into
    regional partnership agreements. We are quite ready and willing to work with the
    other parties and provide resources to support the effectiveness of Indigenous
    groups engaging with government to enable those regional partnership agreements
    to work well.[29]

    There is an important change in approach here, from an emphasis on regional structures, to regional processes and agreements, particularly
    RPAs.

    Given the advanced state of discussions a year ago in a number of regions, it
    is quite remarkable that progress towards recognising regional representative
    structures has stalled, if not dissipated.

    Even more remarkably, the OIPC has sought to suggest that this lack of
    progress is a result in a shift in the thinking and preferences of Indigenous
    people themselves!

    In Senate Estimates they stated:

    ... what we [FaCSIA] have found is that some of the early thinking in a
    number of regions, which was to re-establish something very similar to an ATSIC
    regional council, has dissipated. They [Indigenous peoples] have realised that
    that is not workable or meaningful for them and they have moved on. So we are in
    a situation where we are having to work more case by case in different regions,
    and it is taking a while, but the timetable is very much in the hands of
    Indigenous people, as is the shape of any engagement arrangements that that
    results in.[30]

    This proposition needs to be tested further. It is not consistent with the
    findings of discussions conducted by my Office and it is not consistent with the
    apparent lack of activity by OIPC and ICC to progress this important issue.

    As indicated above, immediately following the demise of the ATSIC Regional
    Councils and over the course of the first year of the new arrangements, the
    government expressed a clear intention to assist Indigenous peoples to establish
    replacement bodies for regional participation. After an initial level of
    activity by OIPC to this end, this undertaking was quietly dropped and replaced
    with a commitment to RIEAs.

    It now seems that the federal government would prefer to avoid anything
    resembling the ATSIC Regional Council model. I have serious doubts that this
    fully represents the will of Indigenous peoples in the regions, or that they
    have ‘moved on’ in their thinking.

    Given the unqualified nature of the government’s initial undertakings,
    a more thorough explanation of what is being done to replace the ATSIC Regional
    Councils with appropriate regional representative organisations is called
    for.

    While it is desirable not to foist a standard model on different regions, and
    this is one of the reasons given for the slowness in getting regional engagement
    arrangements in place or
    supported,[31] I remain concerned
    that the vacuum in Indigenous regional participation is creating problems.

    It is difficult for Indigenous communities to deal with the volume of
    changes, agencies and requirements under the new arrangements and the increasing
    entanglements of red tape.[32] There
    is a need to support authentic and credible structures and processes for
    Indigenous communities that allow them to engage with governments, be consulted,
    and where appropriate, provide informed consent.

    In my view the government has adopted a cynical and disingenuous approach in
    which the apparatus of the new arrangements play no active role in engaging with
    Indigenous peoples on a systemic basis to ensure that mechanisms for Indigenous
    participation can become a reality.

    The Government has clearly stated that one of the priority areas for their
    Expert Panels and ‘Multiuse list of community
    facilitators/coordinators’ is to assist in the development of regional
    engagement arrangements. This demonstrates that they are fully aware that such
    arrangements will only become a reality if intensive support is provided to
    Indigenous communities to develop models that are suitable to their local
    needs.

    It is fanciful to expect that RIEAs will emerge solely through the efforts of
    Indigenous communities that are under-resourced and that in most instances do
    not have the necessary infrastructure to conduct the wide-ranging consultation
    and negotiation required to bring a regional engagement structure into
    existence.

    It is also convenient for Government to leave this issue solely up to
    Indigenous peoples to progress. I would suggest that this is done in full
    knowledge that the outcome of this approach will be an absence of regional
    engagement arrangements.

    There is a clear need for special assistance to ensure that Indigenous
    peoples are able to, in the words of the object of the Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Act 2005
    , ensure the ‘maximum participation of
    Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders in the formulation and
    implementation of government policies that affect them’.

    Options for addressing this significant failure of the new arrangements are
    discussed in detail in the final section of this chapter.

    As noted in chapter 2 of this report, a related concern is that each regional
    Indigenous Coordination Centre is now developing its own Regional Action Plan
    which identifies the key issues that the ICC will focus on in a twelve month
    period.

    The plans will cover work completed through a variety of mechanisms including
    RPAs and SRAs, strategic intervention arrangements and community in crisis
    interventions. The plans are to be endorsed by federal government state manager
    groups and will highlight the most significant community and government work
    which the ICC is involved as well as link into national
    priorities.[33]

    It is a concern that ICCs are developing such action plans in the absence of
    systematic engagement with Indigenous communities at a regional level and in the
    absence of Regional Indigenous Engagement Arrangements in nearly all ICC
    regions. Ensuring such engagement with Indigenous communities should be a
    fundamental pre-requisite to determining service delivery priorities and in the
    identification of need for each ICC region.

    As I have travelled around the country I have discussed this situation with
    Government staff in ICCs and OIPC state offices. These staff, particularly at
    the field operative level, are observing the frustration, disengagement and
    bewilderment of Indigenous peoples. Many of these staff have had long term
    relationships with indigenous communities and peoples and they are experiencing
    the pressures of top down impositions that are not likely to see any real and
    sustainable outcomes for indigenous people. They also feel disempowered
    themselves, and that the culture within the OIPC is one that does not value
    their views and concerns. Many have expressed an unwillingness to raise their
    concerns for fear of reprisals.

    Government would benefit from conducting a confidential survey of all staff
    in ICCs to gauge their views on the current directions in implementing the new
    arrangements and to raise suggestions on the way forward to achieve sustainable
    outcomes.

    Indigenous participation in decision making at the national level

    Last year’s Social Justice Report provided a detail overview of
    the issues relating to Indigenous engagement at the national
    level.[34] These include:

    • difficulties in ensuring the involvement of Indigenous peoples in
      inter-governmental framework agreements (such as health and housing agreements
      with the states and territories);
    • the removal from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth) of previously existing requirements for departments to consult with
      Indigenous peoples in planning and implementing their activities; and
    • the absence of processes for engagement with Indigenous peoples at the
      national level.

    In the past twelve months, there have been limited changes at the
    national level to the situation as described in the Social Justice Report
    2005
    . The government has continued to utilise the National Indigenous
    Council (NIC) as the primary source of advice on Indigenous
    policy[35] and has not sought to
    engage more broadly with Indigenous communities on matters of policy development
    that affect our lives.

    The result of this has been a noticeably low level of participation of
    Indigenous peoples in inquiry processes (such as parliamentary committees) on
    matters of crucial importance to Indigenous peoples and a new
    ‘unilateralism’ in policy development.

    There are two principle concerns that I have regarding developments at the
    national level over the past 12- 18 months.

    • First, we have seen reforms being introduced extremely quickly with limited
      processes for consultation and engagement from Indigenous peoples. Limited
      processes for engagement are compounded by the lack of capacity of Indigenous
      communities and low levels of awareness of the various reforms proposed. During
      the course of some reform processes, the government has stated that they are
      under no obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples – this has
      contributed to the emergence of a culture within the federal government that
      does not place sufficient value upon Indigenous engagement and
      participation.
    • Second, as the government has continued to bed down the new arrangements
      they have continued to distance Indigenous peoples from processes for agreeing
      to policy priorities – this includes through setting the key priorities
      for inter-governmental cooperation through bilateral agreements with the states
      and territories without Indigenous participation, and a changed focus in federal
      processes, such as through the strategic interventions approach described in
      chapter 2.

    Last year’s Social Justice Report expressed concern at
    the existence of multiple processes to reform Indigenous policy that were taking
    place concurrently and the limited ability for Indigenous people and communities
    to engage in these processes. I noted my concern that:

    ... the cumulative impact of the parallel reforms currently taking place is
    overwhelming some communities and individuals.

    This renders it very difficult for Indigenous peoples to participate
    meaningfully in policy development, program design and service delivery. This is
    particularly so in the absence of representative structures to coordinate and
    focus the input of communities, particularly in relation to legislative reform
    and inquiry processes.

    The intention of the reforms is plainly to improve engagement and service
    delivery with Indigenous peoples... The rapid rate of the reforms and the
    accompanying impact it is having on communities and individuals needs to be
    acknowledged by governments.[36]

    This situation has continued over the past year.

    For example, communities have had to deal with the following ongoing reform
    processes that have been occurring simultaneously at the national level:

    • Reforms to governance arrangements for Aboriginal councils and associations,
      which had been held over for a further twelve months;
    • Reforms to the CDEP program, as well as processes for the lifting of Remote
      Area Exemptions in some remote communities; and
    • Reforms of other employment related services, such as Indigenous Employment
      Centres, the Structured Training and Employment Program (STEP), and welfare to
      work reforms.

    At the same time, consultations have been conducted relating
    to:

    • Reforms to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, including
      substantial reforms for land tenure arrangements in townships and proposed
      changes to the permit system;
    • Six inter-connected reform processes for different aspects of the native
      title system, followed by draft legislation to implement the findings of some of
      these consultation processes (with further amendments expected later on);
      and
    • Reforms to the community housing and infrastructure program.

    Legislation has also been introduced to the federal Parliament that
    impacts on Indigenous communities relating to:

    • Land rights reforms in the Northern Territory (through the Aboriginal
      Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1975
      );
    • Indigenous heritage protection (through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
      Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984
      );
    • Indigenous governance (through the Aboriginal Councils and Associations
      Act 1976
      );
    • Banning of consideration of Aboriginal customary law in federal sentencing
      matters (through the Crimes Amendment (Bail and Sentencing) Act 2006);
    • The removal of consent procedures for traditional owners in the nomination
      of sites for storage of radioactive waste on Indigenous lands (through the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Legislation Amendment Bill
      2006
      ); and
    • Welfare to work reforms (through the Employment
      and Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Welfare to Work and Vocational
      Rehabilitation Services) Bill 2006
      )

    Parliamentary inquiries have also been conducted into:

    • petrol sniffing in remote Aboriginal Communities;
    • national parks, conservation reserves and marine protected areas;
    • the Indigenous
      visual arts and craft sector
      ;
    • Indigenous stolen wages;
    • Native Title Representative Bodies (this inquiry was in addition to the four
      separate consultation processes on native title issues conducted by the
      Attorney-General’s Department);
    • Indigenous employment;
    • health funding;
    • the non-fossil fuel energy industry;
    • mental health;
    • civics and electoral education, including the non-entitlement of prisoners
      (of whom Indigenous peoples make up a significant proportion) to vote; and
    • an identity card (which is likely to have a significant impact on Indigenous
      peoples as high users of government services such as the welfare and health
      systems).

    These activities are just some of the reforms that have occurred at
    the national level. They do not include significant reforms at the state and
    territory level – such as to governance arrangements and local councils in
    Queensland and the Northern Territory; the operation of the state based land
    council system, care and protection and adoption systems in NSW; protections
    through a Bill of Rights in the A.C.T, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia;
    and inquiries into family violence and child sexual abuse in NSW and the NT,
    among other things.

    The consultation processes and reforms at the federal level have also been
    difficult for Indigenous peoples to participate in due to the short timeframes
    within which consultation for some of the reforms have taken place. The adequacy
    of consultation processes for CDEP and related employment changes, for example,
    were discussed in Chapter 2 of this report.

    An issue of major concern has been the shortness of time for parliamentary
    inquiries into issues of relevance to the situation of Indigenous peoples and
    particularly for draft legislation. This has been particularly noticeable in
    inquiries before the Australian Senate where public consultation on proposed
    legislation has consistently been severely curtailed.

    For example:

    • The Senate Committee inquiry into changes to federal sentencing laws to ban
      consideration of Aboriginal customary law was formed on 14 September 2006 with
      submissions required to be submitted by 25 September 2006 – just 11 days
      later (with the committee due to report by 16 October 2006). Just 5 submissions
      were received from Indigenous organisations. The final report noted that the
      Government confirmed that 'there was no direct consultation' on the content of
      the Bill with groups who could be
      affected.[37]
    • The Senate Committee Inquiry into the provisions of the amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1975 was created on 22
      June 2006 for inquiry and report by 1 August 2006. The Committee received 4
      submissions from Indigenous organisations. The final report of the inquiry (by
      both government and non-government members of the Committee) stated:

    ‘The Committee considers the time made available for this
    inquiry to be totally inadequate. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern
    Territory) Act
    is one of the most fundamentally important social justice
    reforms enacted in Australia and these are the most extensive and far reaching
    amendments that have been proposed to the Act. There was insufficient time for
    many groups to prepare submissions and a single hearing was complicated by the
    necessity to include a number of teleconferences within the hearing.
    Additionally, time constraints prevented the Committee hearing from a number of
    witnesses’.[38]

    The lack of emphasis given to ensuring that Indigenous peoples are able to
    participate in decision making processes that affect us is of serious concern.

    As I note elsewhere in this report, the lack of engagement generally with
    Indigenous peoples ensures that the system of government, of policy making and
    service delivery, is a passive system that deliberately prevents the active
    engagement of Indigenous peoples. This contradicts the central policy aims of
    the new arrangements, which includes commitments to partnerships, shared
    responsibility and mutual obligation.

    It is paradoxical for the Government to criticise Indigenous people for being
    passive victims and stuck in a welfare mentality yet to continually reinforce a
    policy development framework that is passive and devoid of opportunity for
    active engagement by Indigenous peoples.

    I find it particularly disturbing that there is a lack of acknowledgement of
    the importance of Indigenous engagement and participation in policy making. I am
    concerned that there is emerging a culture within the federal public service,
    led by the Office of Indigenous Policy, which does not place sufficient value
    upon such engagement.

    This has been particularly notable in debates about reforms to land rights in
    the Northern Territory, particularly those relating to changes to land tenure in
    townships. The government has stated before the Senate Committee inquiring into
    the amendments to the land rights legislation that it is not under an obligation
    to consult with Indigenous peoples on the proposed changes, and that that role
    lay instead with the land councils in the Northern
    Territory.[39]

    In subsequent discussions where I have expressed concern about the lack of
    community consultation on the issue of town leasing, the OIPC have also noted
    that they are not obliged under the legislation to consult with the community,
    just with a section of it, that is traditional owners, which the government has
    stated could mean just one person in some
    instances.[40]

    As a matter of practicality, processes for engaging with stakeholders about
    proposed reforms are integrally linked to achieving successful implementation at
    the community level. It is a mistake to believe that reforms that are developed
    in a vacuum will be embraced by communities. It is far more likely that such
    reforms will be perceived as disempowering and paternalistic. As a consequence,
    governments will face greater difficulties in realising their intended goals.
    This will particularly be so if those goals are not shared by Indigenous
    communities.

    The absence of a national representative body exacerbates this situation.

    It is my impression, from discussions with officials in different departments
    and agencies and from observing current practices, that government departments
    are struggling about how to consult and with who.

    As reported in the past two Social Justice Reports, Indigenous peoples
    have been giving attention to the necessary components of a replacement national
    body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

    The National Indigenous Leaders Conference was convened in Adelaide in June
    2004 and set out principles that must be met for any national body to be
    credible.[41] A smaller steering
    committee of participants in that process have met since that initial meeting,
    including at a meeting in Melbourne in 2006, to advance their proposal.

    To date, there has been limited information made publicly available about
    this process or its outcomes. This is unfortunate given the urgent and
    compelling need for a national representative body to be in place.

    The Social Justice Report 2004 set out a number of options for
    ensuring the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making at
    the national level. These included the establishment of a national congress of
    Indigenous representative organisations, annual meetings of Indigenous service
    delivery organisations, and the establishment of a national Indigenous
    non-government organisation.[42]

    My current assessment of these options is as follows:

    • Establishing a national body comprised of the chairpersons of Regional
      Indigenous Representative Structures
      – this is essentially the model
      proposed by the ATSIC Review Team in 2004. It is presently not a feasible model
      due to the absence of regional representative structures, as discussed in this
      chapter. The convening of a national forum should still be treated as a high
      priority once regional structures have been established across the country.
    • Establishing a National Forum of existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait
      Islander peak organisations
      – This could provide an interim approach
      to a more inclusive national representative model. The Forum could be attended
      by National Secretariats and State Associations for:
      • Indigenous women’s legal
        services;
      • Torres Strait Islander
        organisations;
      • native title organisations and land
        councils;
      • legal services;
      • childcare services;
      • community controlled health
        organisations;
      • justice advisory committees;
      • stolen generations
        organisations;
      • peak Indigenous education
        organisations;
      • networks for CDEP; and
      • Job Network providers and so forth.

    I would see enormous value in bringing together these
    organisations to share common experiences and consider mechanisms for improved
    coordination and consideration of issues in a whole of government matter. The
    absence of such a coordinated approach from Indigenous organisations (who are
    clearly not equipped or resourced to operate in this way) creates a mismatch
    between the Government’s new whole of government approach and the ability
    of Indigenous peoples to participate in it.

    A National Forum of Service Providers and peak bodies would be useful as an
    ongoing mechanism, but ultimately would not substitute the need for a
    representative body to ensure effective engagement with Indigenous
    communities.

    • Establishing a national non-government organisation of Indigenous peoples – This may well be the result of current consultations being
      undertaken by Indigenous peoples. The difficulty that this model will face is
      ongoing funding and adequate resourcing. In addition to issues around
      establishing a mandate for the organisation, time will need to be devoted to
      options for resourcing such a body to ensure that it has the capacity to
      undertake the necessary level of activity. Where this model exists
      internationally, such as the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, the Indigenous
      peoples it represents have a secure land and resource base that assures the
      ongoing viability of such a mechanism.

    This is, in my view, achievable. Lessons regarding funding
    arrangements and structure can be learnt from similar organisations
    internationally but also from domestic organisations in other sectors –
    such as the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia and the
    Australian Council for Overseas Aid.

    The current lack of effective participation of Indigenous peoples at the
    national level is a matter of major concern. If the current approach is to
    continue unabated, we risk government policy processes entrenching existing
    problems of lack of engagement. This will result in systemic problems in
    Indigenous policy and service delivery.

    Due to my ongoing concerns about this issue, I have identified the following
    as a follow up action for my Office over the coming year.

    Follow Up Action by Social Justice Commissioner

    The Social Justice Commissioner will work with Indigenous organisations and
    communities to identify sustainable options for establishing a national
    Indigenous representative body.

    The Commissioner will conduct research and consultations with
    non-government organisations domestically and internationally to establish
    existing models for representative structures that might be able to be adapted
    to the cultural situation of Indigenous Australians, as well as methods for
    expediting the establishment of such a body given the urgent and compelling need
    for such a representative body.

    Indigenous participation in determining priorities for
    inter-governmental cooperation

    Concurrent to these developments, the government has continued to bed down
    the new arrangements and to confirm changes in policy through processes that do
    not include Indigenous participation at the outset. This has primarily occurred
    through a new focus on ‘intensive interventions’ and through an
    emphasis on setting priorities and agreed areas for action through bilateral
    agreements with the states and territories.

    Generally speaking, Indigenous engagement is limited to the implementation of
    the priorities once they have already been agreed between governments. Chapter 2
    of this report discussed the federal government’s movement towards a bilateral interventionist model of ‘strategic interventions’ or
    ‘intensive interventions’ in some communities designated as being
    ‘in crisis’.

    As noted in chapter 2, the interventionist model puts the strategic
    decision-making clearly in the hands of government – the Indigenous
    community only becomes involved after the basic decision to intervene has
    been made and respective levels of commitment have been agreed between different
    governments.

    ‘Strategic intervention’ in this context in fact means
    ‘restricted Indigenous participation’ at a governmental and
    priority-setting level. Priorities are determined by outsiders (governments),
    and only then are the insiders (the community) invited to participate in the
    detailed planning and implementation. This does not appear to provide a sound
    basis for ‘ownership’ of initiatives undertaken as part of such
    strategic interventions.

    This approach is more broadly applied through the negotiation of bilateral
    agreements on Indigenous affairs between the federal government and the states
    and territories.

    In general terms, the bilateral agreements commit each government to work in
    partnership and in accordance with principles as agreed through the Council of
    Australian Governments (COAG). They also include schedules of priority actions
    which are agreed solely by governments without Indigenous participation.

    In contrast to this lack of engagement prior to the finalisation of the
    bilateral agreements, each agreement then commits the Australian government and
    the relevant state or territory government to ensure Indigenous participation in
    the implementation of the agreement. For example:

    • The Bilateral Agreement with the Northern Territory Government: identifies the Northern Territory’s proposed local government reforms
      through the creation of Regional Authorities under the NT Local Government
      Act 1994
      as the main model for Indigenous participation and engagement. As
      noted in last year’s Social Justice Report, this is primarily
      focused on rural and remote areas and does not address the needs of Indigenous
      peoples in urban centres in the Northern Territory. This model is also not
      universally accepted by Indigenous peoples in the Territory as the appropriate
      mechanism. To address this, the bilateral agrees to consider representational
      issues ‘through flexible arrangements (including options that bring
      together Indigenous peak
      bodies)’[43] although there
      have been no developments in progressing this in the past year.
    • The Bilateral Agreement with the Queensland Government commits both
      governments to ‘work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to
      determine community engagement arrangements at the local level’ and to use
      the Queensland government’s ‘negotiation table’ process as
      ‘the key community engagement
      mechanism’.[44]
    • The Bilateral Agreement with the New South Wales Government: recognises the NSW Government’s Two Ways Together Framework as the
      foundation for cooperation between the two governments on service delivery to
      Aboriginal communities, including through Shared Responsibility
      Agreements.[45]

    The NSW Government’s Operational Guidelines for SRAs require
    NSW government agencies to satisfy themselves that there has been a proper
    consultative process with Indigenous peoples in developing an
    SRA.[46]

    • The Bilateral Agreement with the South Australian Government: commits
      both governments to ‘work with Indigenous people to determine arrangements
      for engagement at the local and/ or regional levels’ and in
      acknowledgement of the large proportion of Indigenous people who reside in urban
      areas in South Australia to ensure that modified arrangements are put in place
      for engagement in urban areas.[47] Consistent with this, the South Australian government commenced a four month
      consultation process with Indigenous communities in October 2006 to identify an
      appropriate structure for a state-wide Aboriginal Advisory
      Council.[48] I commend the
      Government of South Australia for undertaking this initiative.
    • The Bilateral Agreement with the Western Australian Government:
      Commits both governments to work with Indigenous people to determine effective
      arrangements for engagement, through the conduct of consultations with
      Indigenous communities.[49] In
      August 2006, the Western Australian government also commenced a consultation
      process to identify better ways to engage with Indigenous leaders and to
      identify long-term strategies to strengthen the participation of Aboriginal
      people in the state’s development. This process is due to conclude by 31
      August 2008.[50] I commend the West
      Australian Government for undertaking this initiative.

    It is unclear how any engagement arrangements agreed at the state
    level, such as the processes currently underway in South Australia and Western
    Australia, will link to the federal level. It can be expected, however, that
    there will be a connection due to the commitments made in the bilateral
    agreements. It remains to be seen whether such cooperation is forthcoming from
    the federal government once the models freely chosen by Indigenous peoples have
    been revealed – particularly if these models extend beyond the acceptable
    parameters for the federal government as laid down in their Guidelines for
    Regional Indigenous Engagement Arrangements.

    It remains unfortunate that priorities have been identified through the
    bilateral agreements without Indigenous participation and engagement and that
    there continues to be a lack of any mechanism to facilitate Indigenous
    participation as the agreed actions for inter-governmental cooperation are
    undertaken..

    Engagement with Indigenous peoples at the local level
    – Indigenous perspectives on Shared Responsibility Agreements

    Over the first two years of the new arrangements, there has been considerable
    effort devoted to developing Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) with
    Indigenous communities and organisations. This stands in marked contrast to the
    lack of activity in ensuring the existence of regional mechanisms for Indigenous
    participation and engagement.

    This section of the report considers what lessons can be learnt from this
    local level engagement, particularly in light of the concerns at the
    inappropriate mechanisms and processes for engagement that currently exist at
    the regional, state and national levels.

    Why focus on SRAs?

    Considerable emphasis has been placed on SRAs by the Office of Indigenous
    Policy Coordination since the inception of the new arrangements.

    They have been described as forming one of the beacons of innovation that
    they hope will be the hallmark of the new arrangements. SRAs have been
    identified as having the potential to open up communities to new streamlined
    forms of service delivery that ‘cut red tape’ and address the
    longstanding problems of accessibility of mainstream programs, by
    ‘harnessing the mainstream’. Officers responsible for negotiating
    SRAs within regional ICCs are optimistically named ‘solution
    brokers’ in accordance with these expectations.

    SRAs have also been prominent due to the policy emphasis within them on
    mutual obligation: they have been promoted as one of the key approaches for
    addressing passivity in communities by instilling a culture of reciprocity,
    through mutual obligation for the delivery of services over and above basic
    citizenship entitlements.

    As such, SRAs provide one of the main tools through which regional Indigenous
    Coordination Centres engage with Indigenous communities or organisations at the
    local level, alongside the continued administration of existing grant processes.

    In both practical terms and also the ‘publicity’ of the new
    arrangements, SRAs have occupied an importance that far outweighs the percentage
    of expenditure that they represent.

    This is the primary reason why there should continue to be detailed attention
    and analysis devoted to the effectiveness of this program.

    SRAs have emerged out of the COAG trial model and were quickly applied more
    broadly prior to that model being evaluated and its particular challenges
    identified, such as the high input costs and intensive effort required for
    engagement prior to the delivery of services hitting the ground in communities.

    The previous two Social Justice Reports have highlighted the
    significant challenges for SRAs to meet the expectations placed upon them by the
    government – both legal, in ensuring compliance with human rights and
    specifically the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), and practical, in
    ensuring sound engagement with Indigenous communities to ensure that the process
    can contribute to the long term needs of those communities rather than
    distracting attention and effort away from the urgent needs of communities.

    As the previous chapter of this report notes, the initial focus on SRAs has
    produced only modest outcomes in relation to improving mainstream accessibility.
    This has been hampered by limited flexibility at the regional level, with all
    SRAs originally having to be sent back to Canberra for approval prior to
    proceeding, no matter what level of expenditure was involved.

    Similarly, the definitions of and approaches to SRAs have continuously
    changed, with current references to ‘single issue’ SRAs,
    comprehensive SRAs, holistic SRAs and with the additional blurring of
    distinctions between SRAs and Regional Partnership Agreements. This lack of
    clarity and singular focus is consistent with the instability that characterises
    the new arrangements more than two years into their implementation (and as
    discussed in detail in the previous chapter).

    There has also been a tendency for particular SRAs to blur the boundaries of
    what is acceptable in terms of service provision for basic entitlements to
    communities. The application of mutual obligation principles within agreements
    has also been problematic on occasion, and has moved away from the initial
    intention of supporting communities to become active participants to being
    perceived as providing a punitive approach to service delivery.

    The Social Justice Report 2005 gave extensive consideration to the
    Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) making process. It included human rights
    guidelines for the process of making SRAs as well as guidelines to guide the
    content of SRAs.[51]

    The report also identified a number of ‘follow up actions’ that
    my Office would undertake over the subsequent period in relation to SRAs. These
    included that my Office would monitor the SRA process, including by:

    • considering the process for negotiating and implementing SRAs;
    • considering whether the obligations contained in agreements are consistent
      with human rights standards;
    • establishing whether the government has fulfilled its commitments in SRAs;
      and
    • consulting with Indigenous peoples, organisations and communities about
      their experiences in negotiating
      SRAs.[52]

    I have continued to monitor SRAs over the past year through a three
    stage process.

    First, the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination has forwarded copies of
    all SRAs to my Office. This arrangement will no longer be necessary as all SRAs
    are now published online on the OIPC website at: http://www.indigenous.gov.au/sra.html.

    Second, a national survey was conducted with Indigenous communities and
    organisations who had entered into an SRA. My office received many responses to
    the survey, and Indigenous people from numerous communities also contacted staff
    in my office to discuss their SRA in more detail.

    Third, I sought first hand information from Indigenous organisations and
    communities by means of interview based case studies. My staff visited some
    communities and organisations from which we had received responses through the
    survey, and conducted interviews in order to enhance the feedback already
    obtained from the surveys. These interviews provide a richer qualitative
    sampling of community perspectives on SRAs.

    So what then have been the outcomes of SRAs to date for Indigenous peoples, as defined by Indigenous peoples?

    This section of the report provides the outcomes of the national survey of
    communities who have entered into SRAs as well as of specific case studies which
    provide further specific information about the challenges faced during the
    negotiation process.

    Through both of these processes the purpose was to find out directly from
    Indigenous peoples about their experiences and identify whether they were
    satisfied with the process. Some of the questions I was interested in asking
    through the survey and case studies include:

    • Has the community been satisfied with the outcomes of the SRA?
    • How did the community come to enter the SRA and how did they find the
      process?
    • Did the service as outlined in the SRA get delivered to the community?
    • What supports, if any did the community receive from government?
    • What were the critical factors for the community in achieving the objectives
      of the SRA?
    • Has the SRA had longer term benefits – e.g. simplified service
      delivery, improved communication with government?

    The outcomes of the national survey are discussed first, followed
    by the case studies. This section of the report then ends by drawing together
    the implications from these to guide the SRA process into the future.

    Findings of the national survey of Indigenous communities that have
    entered into Shared Responsibility Agreements

    • Introduction and Survey methodology

    A national survey of Indigenous groupings that had entered into a
    SRA was conducted between 4 September 2006 and 15 November 2006. The survey
    results reflect the perceptions and understanding of the SRA process by those
    Indigenous communities, organisations, families and individuals who had entered
    into an agreement.

    I invited all communities who had entered into an SRA before 31 December 2005
    to complete a survey about the process involved in developing and implementing
    their SRA. The cut off date was chosen to ensure that there had been sufficient
    time for the SRA to come into effect and for its objectives to be realised.

    The survey consisted of 27 questions, with a combination of standard response
    questions and open questions to gain contextual qualitative information. All of
    the questions gave respondents the opportunity to add their own information.

    The survey focused on the content of the SRA, the negotiation process and the
    community’s views on the SRA process. The full survey questionnaire is
    reproduced as Appendix 3 of this report.

    The survey was undertaken on a voluntary basis. Participants were informed
    that their responses were to be kept confidential and all responses would be
    sufficiently de-identified to preserve their privacy, and in turn enable them to
    offer frank feedback on the SRA process.

    To increase accessibility for communities and organisations, the survey was
    posted on the HREOC website. Each community representative was able to complete
    and submit the entire survey online. I sent a letter to the communities before
    the survey was posted, explaining why I was interested in conducting the survey
    and encouraging communities to participate. Paper copies were also available on
    request and my staff also assisted some respondents to complete the survey over
    the phone.

    The survey sample includes SRAs signed before 31 December 2005. For this
    period there were 108 SRAs finalised, involving 124 communities.

    In addition to communities that had entered into a SRA prior to 31 December
    2005, the Survey results include data relating to a further four SRAs in four
    communities who had entered into SRAs in early 2006. These communities had been
    referred to the online Survey forms by other communities that had been invited
    to submit results.

    At the close of the survey, responses had been received relating to 67 SRAs
    finalised prior to 31 December 2005, and 71 SRAs in
    total.[53]

    Based on 67 SRAs, out of a possible 108 SRAs prior to 31 December 2005, the
    survey had a 62% response rate. This is considered a very good response rate,
    especially given that some of the SRAs were for relatively small projects and
    the survey required at least an hour to complete.

    In disseminating the survey there was two interesting administrative issues
    faced:

    • The OIPC and ICC did not have an accurate record of signatories to SRAs. The
      OIPC could not identify the relevant contact people for each SRA. This required
      working with each regional ICC to identify the relevant organisations or
      communities in order to distribute the Survey. During this process, it was not
      possible for the ICC or OIPC to identify all signatories to SRAs.
    • Some communities refused to participate in the survey on the basis that: a)
      the SRA in their community was for such an insubstantial sum of money that they
      felt they were already required to over-report and spend too much time in
      relation to the agreement; and b) for some communities, the SRA had been
      dependent on a particular individual who had left the community since the SRA
      was signed. In this situation, some communities stated they had insufficient
      knowledge about the SRA to comment on its effectiveness – the SRA clearly
      had no relevance or currency in those communities.
    • Key Features of SRAs – Survey responses

    The greatest numbers of survey respondents were from Western
    Australia with 21 responses (32%) and the Northern Territory with 15 responses
    (24 %). Respectively, 10 (16%) were from Queensland, 8 (13%) South Australia, 6
    (10%) NSW, 3 (5%) Tasmania, and no responses from Victoria. The high response
    rates for Western Australia were not surprising given the large number of SRAs
    in operation during the survey period.

    To understand what type of communities or community organisations have been
    utilising SRAs, the survey asked respondents to describe their organisation. Graph 1 below shows that 29% of the respondents described their
    organisation as an Aboriginal/ Torres Strait Islander corporation, and 13% as a
    Community Council. A large number of organisations (31%) fell into the
    ‘other category’. This included a range of organisations including
    schools, Aboriginal housing services, charitable trusts, a police unit or other
    organisations which fell into a number of different categories.

    While the survey did not specifically ask whether the organisation responding
    was Indigenous community controlled, 7 schools and 1 police unit completed the
    survey in relation to the SRA they had negotiated. In relation to the SRA with
    the police unit, further discussions with an Indigenous organisation in that
    community which had a specific role in the SRA revealed that they had had no
    involvement in its development.

    Graph 1: Description of the organisation entering into the SRA

    The survey asked respondents to identify what the SRA is about, selecting
    from a list of identified categories. The categories were:

    • capacity building;
    • municipal services;
    • sport and recreation;
    • health and nutrition;
    • community revitalisation;
    • cultural activities;
    • leadership activities;
    • housing;
    • economic development;
    • family wellbeing;
    • law and order and
    • other.

    Respondents were able to select as many of the subject areas that
    they felt applied to their SRA.

    As shown below in Graph 2, 37% of respondents identified a single
    category, while the remainder reported that their SRA fell into a number of
    different categories. There were no clear patterns arising from how the
    communities described their SRAs, which in itself may reveal something about
    community perceptions of the SRAs. This may suggest that many communities
    perceive the aims of the SRA as much broader than a single issue.
    Graph 2: What is the SRA about? Number of areas identified by respondents

    Of those 37% of respondents that were able to categorise their SRA into a
    single subject area, Graph 3 shows the spread of SRA subject areas.

    Graph 3 - What is the SRA about? Single subject are descriptions

    As shown in Graph 2, a large number of communities listed more than category
    to describe their SRA. Given the unique combinations nominated by respondents no
    clear groupings arise but a further breakdown is provided in Table 1 below. Table 1 shows how many communities nominated each category. The most
    reported category was ‘other’ (24 respondents), followed by capacity
    building and cultural activities (18 respondents).

    Table 1: What is the SRA about?

    Category
    Frequency
    Cultural revitalisation
    18
    Capacity building
    18
    Sport and recreation
    17
    Health and nutrition
    16
    Community revitalisation
    12
    Family wellbeing
    10
    Leadership
    10
    Law and order
    5
    Municipal services
    6
    Economic development
    8
    Other
    24

    • Obligations contained in SRAs

    As SRAs impose obligations on both parties entering into the
    agreement, respondents were asked to describe the respective obligations of the
    federal government, state governments and community.

    In relation to the federal government, Graph 4 shows that 35% of
    communities report that the federal government contributed money to either fund
    a salary or a specific project. The next most common obligation (19%) was a
    combination of money, resources such as infrastructure, equipment, staff or
    consultants and any other form of support.

    The range of different federal obligations reported by communities suggests
    that at least in principle, the federal government is committing to a greater
    range of support mechanisms. This result appears to suggest that through these
    SRAs the government is moving away from purely providing funding, to greater
    involvement in the actual implementation of a program. This may be through
    monitoring and evaluation, provision of resources and infrastructure, as well as
    training and participation in steering or other committees.

    Graph 4: Commonwealth government obligations under the SRA

    Given that SRAs are a federal government initiative it is not surprising,
    that almost half (42%) of respondents reported no state government involvement
    or obligations in the agreement. Graph 5 illustrates the various
    obligations of state governments under the SRAs, according to the survey
    responses.

    Graph 5: State government obligations under the SRA

    The absence of state government participation in many SRAs may reflect the
    simple, single issue nature of the SRAs that have been negotiated to
    date.[54] As the process becomes
    more sophisticated and ‘comprehensive SRAs’ begin to emerge, it is
    anticipated that the level of state government involvement will increase.

    Some communities reported positive interactions with state governments and
    constructive use of state government obligations in SRAs. For instance, one
    community used the SRA process as an opportunity to develop Memorandums of
    Understanding (MoUs) with state government partner agencies to improve service
    delivery and coordination. One respondent also reported that the state
    government made the major contribution, with the federal government taking a
    less active role, namely, only participating in steering committees. This may be
    entirely appropriate, depending on the individual needs of each community and
    each SRA.

    The very nature of SRAs bestows obligations on communities in return for the
    benefit negotiated with government. As shown in Graph 6 below, the
    respondents reported a wide range of obligations.

    74% of communities reported that they were required to fulfil two or more
    different obligations. The most commonly reported obligation was to provide
    labour and other support, which can include either one or a combination of the
    other obligations. Other obligations set out in the survey were, to be active
    participants in the community, to provide maintenance and security, to organise
    sporting and recreational activities or to undertake training.

    Graph 6: Community obligations under the SRA

    A large number of communities listed more than one obligation. This is
    represented in Graph 6 as ‘other support’. A further breakdown
    provided in Table 2 below shows how many communities nominated each
    category. The most reported community obligation was to provide labour (31
    respondents), closely followed by providing financial or project management (29
    respondents).

    Table 2: Community Obligations

    Community Obligation
    Frequency
    Provide labour
    31
    Provide financial or project management
    29
    To be active participants in the community
    20
    To provide maintenance and security
    19
    Other
    18
    To provide resources
    17
    To undertake training
    16
    To organise sporting or recreational activities
    14

    Most of the respondents were able to categorise their obligations. However,
    those that provided additional information gave another dimension on the nature
    and scope of community’s obligations. In particular, one community
    reported obligations on individuals to participate in health treatment, health
    education and be supported by family during this treatment in return for
    treatment facilities and support.

    Another community reported that in return for a municipal service, community
    members were obligated, among other requirements, to actively work on addressing
    substance misuse issues. Addressing substance misuse is a complex, often
    entrenched and resource intensive process. There is concern that this sort of
    obligation may be disproportionate to the obligation and commitment made by the
    federal government, particularly if the SRA is not accompanied by related
    services and programs. This may ultimately place an unfair burden on Indigenous
    communities and has the potential to fail and consequently discredit the
    Indigenous participants, not the funding party.

    Given the large proportion of communities obligated to provide labour and
    other resources, it is not surprising that 61% of respondents reported that
    their local CDEP scheme is involved in activities for the SRA. A further 29%
    reported no CDEP involvement and 10% of the respondents didn’t know if the
    CDEP were involved in the SRA.

    Of note is the very low number of respondents who reported that the federal
    government agreed under the SRA to increase CDEP places in the community. Only
    three communities indicated a government commitment to increase places, combined
    with other obligations. As noted in last year’s Social Justice
    Report
    , it is important that if an SRA requires CDEP labour from the
    community, this should be negotiated so that the SRA does not result in the
    re-allocation of necessary places away from existing activities, rather than
    resulting in the provision of additional SRA CDEP
    places.[55]

    • Monitoring process for the SRA

    To ensure obligations are being met by all parties, monitoring and
    evaluation is crucial to the SRA process. Nearly all of the respondents reported
    some form of monitoring of the SRA, with a small number of nil responses, or
    respondents unsure about the exact process. On the whole, most respondents
    appear satisfied with the processes in place.

    Almost a third of the respondents specifically reported that their local
    Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) is involved in the monitoring and
    evaluation of the SRA. Once again, most descriptions of their role was
    favourable although one community did express concern, describing their
    monitoring process as:

    ... to be hounded by the ICC Broker to spend the money and only in a
    particular way or process. Our organisation had to carry all the administration
    costs as well - no provision for that by the ICC broker or the SRA.

    However, most of the monitoring processes in place did not appear to be too
    onerous on the community. Many communities seem to have incorporated monitoring
    and reporting into existing meetings or providing data and documentation that
    should be readily accessible. Other examples of monitoring processes
    included:

      • monthly steering committee meetings;
      • council and community meetings included discussion and monitoring of the
        SRA;
      • quarterly or monthly progress reports on project, often completed by the
        community project worker;
      • provision of photos documenting work completed;
      • provision of financial records related to the project;
      • provision of statistics, for instance, about the number of participants in a
        project or any improvements against agreed performance indicators;
      • participant satisfaction surveys; and
      • consultations and interviews with relevant staff working on the project.
    • The negotiation process for the SRA

    SRAs are a new way for government to engage with Indigenous
    communities about their needs. In last year’s report I set out guidelines
    for agreement making that incorporates the free, prior and informed consent of
    communities.[56] This year, through
    the national survey, I have been able to examine how communities feel the
    negotiation process is working for them, and in turn how it upholds these key
    human rights principles.

    When asked why communities decided to negotiate an SRA most indicated a
    particular community need or service delivery gap that they thought could be
    addressed by the SRA. It is noted that five respondents (8% of the sample)
    stated that they entered into the SRA negotiations as they felt they had no
    other alternative to access much needed funding.

    In the survey I was interested in how the SRA negotiation process was
    initiated and progressed. As illustrated in Graph 7 below, 39% of
    respondents indicated that the government, usually through the local ICC,
    approached the community and suggested the SRA. The next most frequent
    initiation process was by the community identifying a need itself and then
    approaching government (30%).

    Graph 7: Who suggested the SRA?

    Once the SRA had been suggested, Graph 8 shows that 19% of the
    respondents reported that community consultations were undertaken in preparation
    for the negotiation process. Community consultations were used to help prepare
    the community negotiators for the SRA negotiation and to discuss the content of
    the SRA and the obligations on the community. A further 27% of respondents
    stated that community consultations were held in combination with another method
    of preparation, such as community planning or engaging a negotiator. The
    exclusive use of professional negotiators or advisors occurred in a small number
    of reported SRAs (3%). Communities were much more likely to utilise members of
    staff from their organisation to negotiate on behalf of the community, in
    conjunction with community consultation or community planning processes or
    negotiators, totalling 33% of all respondents.

    Graph 8: How did the community prepare to make the SRA?

    In recognition of the possible complexities and barriers impacting on
    effective negotiation, the survey also asked participants about any assistance
    they received from government to facilitate the process. Graph 9 illustrates these results.

    The local ICC seems to have been most instrumental, with 33% of the
    respondents reporting that a staff member from the local ICC assisted in writing
    a community plan, with a further 3% providing resources as well. Respondents
    identified that a Solution Broker from the local ICC was used in 5% of cases.
    Solution brokers from the ICC, in addition to other support/ specialist
    consultant from the ICC were used in 16% of the cases reported. These results
    suggest that there is not an understanding of the concept of ‘solution
    brokers’ among Indigenous communities, as in most instances ‘a staff
    member from the local ICC’ will be a solution broker.

    11% of the communities surveyed stated that they received no assistance to
    facilitate the SRA. Through a correlation of answers, it is clear that
    communities that received no assistance were more likely to be dissatisfied with
    the SRA process overall.

    Graph 9: What assistance was provided to negotiate the SRA?

    The federal government designed SRAs seems to be a responsive, flexible way
    for Indigenous communities to access government assistance. They aim to cut down
    ‘red tape’ and therefore should occur in a timely manner. Graph
    10
    shows that 10 % took less than 1 month, 27% took up to 3 months to
    negotiate, 39% took 3-6 months and 24% took 6-12 months. Notably, one respondent
    indicates that the process has ‘gone on for 18 months and there is still
    no sign off’.

    Graph 10: How long did the negotiations for the SRA take?

    While the amount of time spent negotiating the SRA is one indicator of
    efficient processes, another significant consideration is whether the community
    considered the negotiation timeline appropriate. If the process is too slow
    there can be frustration that can ultimately undermine the relationship between
    an Indigenous community and government. Conversely, if the process moves too
    quickly, a community may be unable to consider the full implications of the SRA,
    compromising their free, prior and informed consent to the SRA. The measure of
    efficiency must then be once the community has signed off on the SRA and the
    time it takes for the delegate to consider, approve and release funds.

    Graph 11 shows community perceptions of the timeline for negotiating
    the SRA. 45% of the communities felt that the process went at the right pace for
    them. 27% felt the process was too slow; either as the community was ready to
    finalise the agreement but had to wait for the government to approve the
    agreement; there were delays during the negotiation process which meant that the
    agreement took longer than it should have; there was a lack of community
    knowledge; or a combination of all these factors. 9% of the respondents found
    the process too fast and felt either that the government had pressured the
    community to finalise and sign the agreement too quickly; that the government
    had set timeframes that did not allow enough time for the community to consider
    the implications of the proposed obligations; or both.

    Grapth 11: Was the timeline appropriate for negotiating the SRA?

    In order to ascertain whether the free, prior and informed consent of
    Indigenous communities was sought, the survey asked about the amount of
    information provided to the community during the SRA negotiation process. Graph 12 shows that 53% of communities felt that they had received the
    right amount of information about SRAs; this is a disturbingly low figure for
    this question.

    20% of the respondents didn’t feel the community had enough
    information. For instance, one community specifically stated, ‘All we knew
    was it was a funding grant, it only became apparent later that it was a SRA when
    they came visiting to monitor the activities’. This statement implies that
    the community was not aware of their respective obligations under the SRA until
    ICC staff visited to monitor the activities. 27% of respondents responded
    ‘other’, many of who acknowledged that the SRA process was new and
    not enough was really known by both sides at that juncture.

    Some respondents commented that information needs to be in a more accessible
    format. This sentiment was echoed by the 6% of respondents who thought that too
    much information was provided about SRAs.

    Graph 12: Was the right amount of information provided?

    Relating again to free, prior, informed consent, the survey asked how
    approval was sought for the SRA and how community members were informed of their
    obligations. Graph 13 below shows the results. The community board/
    council approved 27% of the SRAs in the survey sample, and were involved in a
    further 27% of approvals, combined with approval from the CEO and/ or
    Chairperson, or a community meeting.

    Significantly, 8% of the respondents reported no approval from the community.
    Two of the SRAs which did not receive community approval appear to have been
    negotiated by non Indigenous organisations. The survey does not, however, enable
    us to determine the quality of the consultation process leading to approval. In
    one reported case where a non-Indigenous organisation appeared to have
    negotiated the SRA, the only form of consultation reported was a morning tea to
    go through the SRA with stakeholders so that they could approve and sign the
    document.

    Graph 13: How was the SRA approved?

    Multiple methods have been used to inform community members of their
    obligations under the SRA, as shown in Graph 14. The most popular (33%)
    was a community meeting, combined with some other method such as displaying a
    copy of the SRA in the community centre, providing a copy to community members
    or providing information at board or council meetings.

    Graph 14: What has been done to inform the community of their obligations?

    • Delivery of commitments and community satisfaction with the SRA
      process

    One indicator of general community satisfaction was whether or not
    the federal government had met its obligations under the SRA. Graph 15 shows 57% of communities reported that they were satisfied with how the
    government had met its obligations. Only 3% reported that the government had not
    met its obligations, but 19% reported that while the government had met its
    obligations, they were not satisfied with how they had done so. That nearly one
    quarter of respondents were unhappy with the nature of how government met its
    obligations is of significant concern.

    When asked to explain their answer, very few respondents with positive
    feedback provided explanation. Those with less positive perceptions cited issues
    around lack of recurrent funding; unreasonable reporting and administration
    requirements; inflexibility once the SRA is signed off; lack of ongoing
    government support to make the SRA work and an unequal relationship between
    communities and government, with communities facing a heavier burden of
    obligation under the SRA than government stakeholders.

    Graph 15: Are you satisfied with how the government has met its obligations?

    Communities were also asked to identify and rate the three main positive
    impacts of SRAs on their relationship with the federal government. All but five
    of the survey respondents were able to identify some positive impact on the
    relationship. Common themes in the responses were:

    • greater accountability of government to the community;
    • local and accessible staff to assist the community from the ICC;
    • greater awareness of government functions, relevant policies and
      programs;
    • better communication between government and communities;
    • greater understanding of the SRA process;
    • more consultation; and
    • improved linkages with other government departments.

    When asked about the three main negative impacts on their
    relationship with the federal government, almost 70% of the respondents did not
    list any issues, implying that the majority of survey respondents ultimately saw
    the SRA process as having either no effect, or a positive effect on their
    existing relationship with the federal government.

    Of those 30% that did report that the SRA had a negative impact on their
    relationship with the federal government, issues were raised around:

    • Unclear expectations, according to two respondents, governments ‘keep
      moving the goal posts’ and therefore it is difficult for communities to
      understand and fulfil their obligations under the SRA.
    • Lack of flexibility in the relationship between the community and the
      government. This was commented on by three respondents who noted that when
      circumstances necessitated that the SRA change, the government was unwilling to
      do so. For example, in one SRA the community had agreed to renovate an old
      building to be converted for use as a school. Once the agreement had been
      signed, it was found that the building would require repairs far beyond the
      capacity of the community and as agreed upon in the SRA. No additional funding
      was supplied to the project and the organisation was then required to
      ‘pick up the pieces’ and find the additional funds for the project
      to go ahead.
    • Lack of cultural awareness and the unique needs of each community, or as one
      community described government practice, ‘putting everyone in the same
      category’.
    • Lack of recurrent funding impacting on the sustainability of project.
    • Perception that a failure to enter into an SRA may jeopardise other funding
      applications.
    • A perceived condescending attitude of government.

    All but three communities were able to identify positive impacts on
    the community resulting from the SRA. Most were outcomes related to the actual
    SRA, ranging from modest impacts such as children being able to play basketball
    to increases in school support and retention, better access to nutritious food
    and reductions in juvenile offending. Some respondents also noted an increase in
    community pride and cohesion and a sense of ownership of the SRA. One community
    reported ‘confidence in the government post ATSIC’ and another
    suggested the process has encouraged them to undertake another SRA.

    Some communities saw SRAs as a way to increase accountability, with one
    community stating:

    The SRA is a fantastic tool to develop a range of ‘tied
    outcomes’, not only for the Indigenous community/organisation but also for
    the other stakeholders such as federal departments, state and territory agencies
    and other stakeholders.

    Other communities felt that the SRA was a good concept that could work, but
    had concerns about the implementation. For instance:

    The idea of SRAs is good but it has to be done properly. It has to help the
    community to have sole commitment to make sure that their part of the deal is
    done properly. If only there is enough money (because) this is the best way to
    in which the community can learn to stand on their own feet.

    50% of the respondents reported some negative impacts as a result of entering
    into the SRA. The most common concern was the short term nature of the funding
    effecting the sustainability of projects and creating, according to one
    respondent, ‘false hope’. One community in particular notes that if
    a SRA fails:

    ... it effects other programs. They become very disappointed about
    everything...It is hard to start another project because the trust and the faith
    in doing something are not there anymore.

    Particularly in remote areas, there was a perception among communities that
    support needed to be in place for ‘at least three years’ to yield
    any positive change. One respondent stated that:

    My concern is that SRAs are often short term fixes or band aid solutions.
    What most organisations need is reliable, ongoing and viable funding to enable
    forward planning to take place in projects to assist Indigenous communities.

    Another common theme was under funding and under resourcing, with communities
    either needing to make up the short fall or reduce the scope and expectations of
    the SRA project. One example of this relates to a SRA for a swimming pool where
    the funding did not take into account the additional power costs and required
    staffing levels to operate the swimming pool. As a result, the community did not
    have adequate resources to meet all the swimming pool costs from the SRA and was
    required to keep the swimming pool operational through other funds.

    Similarly, another community noted that during the time that passed between
    negotiating the SRA and actually commencing the project, the costs involved had
    substantially increased and the short fall had to be made up by the community.
    As most communities do not have ready access to discretionary funds, there is
    potential to misuse funding provided for another purpose to prop up the SRA.

    Other negative impacts included confusion in the community about the SRA, and
    the amount of time and resources spent on administration. One respondent sums up
    this perception, ‘SRAs are very time consuming for not a lot of
    return’. Some communities suggested that this could be overcome through
    additional support to assist in meeting reporting commitments, or reducing the
    frequency of reporting.

    There is also a sense among a small number of communities that the SRA was
    not actually addressing the cause of the issue. One respondent stated that the
    SRA:

    ... does not address the core issues - people raise their very real concerns,
    often pouring out their hearts, and think their views are being taken into
    account and then NOTHING (emphasis in the original).

    In some ways, this may reveal more about community perceptions of SRAs and
    the lack of accurate information they have received about the scheme, than the
    actual SRA. Given that SRAs provide ‘a discretional benefit in return for
    community obligations ... (in) the form of extra services, capital or
    infrastructure over and above essential services or basic
    entitlements’[57] it is
    unlikely that SRAs do in fact have the capacity to address complex, entrenched
    problems, at least in their current form. It is therefore imperative that
    government works with communities to properly inform them about reasonable
    expectations of the SRA scheme.

    Finally, communities were asked whether they would enter into another SRA. Graph 16 shows 63% stated they would, 5% would not and 32% were not sure.

    Graph 16: Would you enter into another SRA?

    An analysis of quantitative and qualitative responses, looking at
    indicators of satisfaction such as any positive changes in the community, the
    relationship with the federal government, whether obligations have been met,
    whether the community would enter into another SRA and any other comments, is
    demonstrated below in Graph 17.

    Accordingly, 39% of participants were generally positive about the SRA
    process. A further 13% were also positive but noted some significant areas of
    concern around the process or negotiation of community obligations. 16% were
    negative about the process and another 8 % also gave substantial negative
    feedback, but stated that they would probably enter into anther SRA. The
    remaining 24% were quite ambivalent about the process or there was not enough
    information in the survey response to categorise the feedback.

    Graph 17: Overall Feedback on the SRA

    • Lessons learnt from entering a SRA

    In order for the SRA process to function it is important that
    communities are well resourced and have the capacity to negotiate an appropriate
    agreement. The survey asked respondents what communities or organisations need
    to successfully negotiate a SRA. While this varied across communities, commonly
    reported themes were:

    • community input;
    • community leadership;
    • sufficient information about the SRA;
    • good literacy skills;
    • a professional/ skilled negotiator;
    • sufficient time to consult and consider the implications;
    • communication between the government and community;
    • long term financial support to ensure the SRA project is viable;
    • involvement of state and local government;
    • a clear timeframe;
    • outcomes that are realistic and can be measured;
    • good management practices in the community/organisation, and
    • experience with grant administration and financial accountability.

    While the survey did not ask the respondents whether they in fact
    thought their community possessed these qualities, it is probably safe to assume
    that some capacity building and community development will need to take place if
    communities are to feel confident in negotiating SRAs.

    Many of the respondents also noted how important a good, open relationship
    with the local ICC was in negotiating the SRA. Related to this, a few
    respondents called for greater ‘backbone’ for the ICC to make
    decisions rather than referring back to head office. However, it should be noted
    that financial delegation to ICC managers has increased in the past year which
    may partially address this in the future. There was also a general concern that
    ICC staff needed to better understand community development principles to ensure
    that the SRA best addresses community advancement.

    • Survey conclusions

    The survey has provided valuable feedback about how SRAs are being
    negotiated and implemented in a wide range of communities across the nation.
    From the survey responses it appears that the majority are generally positive
    about the process and report improvements in the relationships with government.
    Many communities are enthusiastic about their ability to access flexible funding
    tied to their own initiatives and all parties should be commended for developing
    some innovative projects.

    There are also valuable lessons to be learnt from the feedback provided in
    the survey. The quality of support, consultation and information is very
    important and could be improved. There were instances reported in the survey
    where no support was given to communities to negotiate the agreement and even
    more worrying, some communities report feeling rushed through the process with
    inadequate time to consider the full implications of the SRA. Communities need
    to give their free, prior and informed consent when they are negotiating these
    agreements. Support, consultation and accessible information are therefore
    imperative if this is to be achieved.

    The effective participation of Indigenous communities in the negotiation
    process is not only important to achieve good outcomes, but is also an issue in
    human rights compliance. Those communities that report feeling rushed or ill
    informed may not have had the opportunity to give their full, prior and informed
    consent as required by human rights standards.

    The role of the local ICCs has been generally praised by the respondents and
    seems to be working as an effective link between government and local Indigenous
    communities in this area of service delivery.

    However, community confidence and satisfaction in the SRA process seems to be
    limited by the short term nature of the funding, the bureaucratic burden of
    additional paperwork, disproportionate accountability requirements, lack of
    flexibility once the agreement is signed and unrealistic expectations of the
    community party of the SRA.

    Not all respondents had strong views, with the survey picking up on a
    significant degree of ambivalence towards the process. For these respondents,
    SRAs may seem to be just another government programme that may or may not assist
    them. Many were pragmatic, recognising that they had no real alternatives to
    access fund and were willing to utilise the scheme to the best advantage of
    their community.

    A common theme among respondents is the need for communities to have
    significant capacity to consult with community members, strong leadership and
    governance, experience in management and administration and strong negotiating
    skills to gain a good, fair SRA. There seems to be considerable scope for
    further community development and capacity building (for community and ICC
    staff) to enable communities to make the most the SRA scheme and promote social
    justice for Indigenous communities.

    Overall, the Survey results suggest that SRAs have the potential to create or
    improve relationships between the government and communities when they are done
    well. Done poorly or without adequate consultation, they have the potential to
    create disenchantment amongst the community that may prove difficult to shift in
    the future.

    The potential benefits of SRAs can quickly dissipate, particularly where
    agreements relate to one off, short term projects and in the absence of ongoing
    interaction. SRAs can provide an entry point into genuine consultative processes
    at the community level – so long as the momentum and goodwill created in
    communities is acted upon in a timely manner and on a basis of mutual benefit
    and partnership.

    Text Box 1: Selected quotes from survey respondents about SRAs

    Positive impact on community relationship with the federal
    government

    ‘Establishment of a positive professional relationship and networks
    with government departmental officers in several portfolios.’

    ‘We see government officials more regularly.’

    ‘Confidence in engagement with government post ATSIC.’

    Positive outcomes from the SRA

    ‘The children have enjoyed going to school because of the bikes and
    equipment.’

    ‘Assisted with much needed accommodation.’

    ‘Pride by the elders in the role they play.’

    Improved self esteem for local Indigenous people and the delivery
    of practical and relevant training developments programs which have resulted in
    real employment outcomes for members of the local Indigenous
    community.’

    ‘Better health for community members.’

    ‘A community response to solve issues in the
    community.’

    Concerns about the SRA process

    ‘SRAs are very time consuming for not very much
    reward.’

    ‘The process of the SRAs has not been successfully explained. Key
    personnel deal with the bureaucracy and then have the task of explaining the
    process to communities. Not enough real education/promotional material
    available.’

    ‘My concern is that SRAs are often quick fixes or band aid
    solutions. What most organisations need is reliable, ongoing and viable funding
    to enable forward planning to take place in projects to assist Indigenous
    communities.’

    ‘I felt that the accountability should be proportionate to the
    amount of funds sought eg. Targets/reports/school visits etc for $10,000 seems
    over the top when schools have several small grants to manage.’

    ‘Shared responsibility is only shared if both parties truly
    understand what they have negotiated. There is no way this has happened in this
    instance.’

    Case studies of specific SRAs

    This section contains the outcomes of three community consultations conducted
    in late 2006. My aim was to select three communities and organisations in which
    the SRAs reflect different subject matters and also to sample communities and
    organisations that represented different types of organisations and relative
    remoteness. The three case studies are:

    • Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, Cardwell, Queensland;
    • Cape Barren Island, Tasmania; and
    • Baddagun Aboriginal Organisation, Innisfail, Far North Queensland.

    The case studies provide a more detailed perspective on the
    specific challenges faced in negotiating an SRA from the perspective of
    Indigenous community organisations. They provide specific examples that
    complement the survey results. I anticipate that further case studies will be
    undertaken and reported in my 2007 Social Justice Report.

    • Case Study 1: Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, Cardwell,
      Queensland

    a) Background

    This case study is based on interviews conducted with Mr Phil Rist, the CEO
    of Girringun Aboriginal Corporation.

    Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, located in Cardwell, between Cairns and
    Townsville, is a community based organisation formed from nine
    cultural-linguistic groups (Bandjin, Djiru, Girramay, Gugu Badhun, Gulgnay,
    Jirrbal, Nywaigi, Waragamay and Warungnu) of that region, and representing the
    interests of the traditional owners of those groups.

    Girringun entered into a SRA on 3 March 2005 with the Commonwealth Government
    through the Townsville ICC, and with the Queensland Government through the
    Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy.

    The SRA provided funding to enable the organisation to develop a corporate
    plan, to strengthen governance structures, provide a forum to negotiate with the
    different levels of government, and to develop a document that can be used as a
    community resource and which outlines a longer term vision for the community.

    The SRA was also meant to enable Girringun to engage a project officer to
    develop the organisation’s corporate plan. In this SRA, the Commonwealth
    provided $64,996, and the State Government provided in-kind support including
    training for a project officer to participate in a project steering
    committee.

    Girringun works within a strong cultural context, and draws on this to
    develop innovative approaches to the many challenges its communities face. One
    such approach is based on outstations, which are community settlements on
    country. Phil Rist provided an idea as to how some of the many critical issues
    facing the community such as health, education and justice might be addressed by
    further involving these outstations:

    It’s the fact that you’re on country, contributing to the health
    of your country that contributes to your wellbeing. The outstation program, it
    could address this sort of thing, and make them feel good at the same time ....
    They’re back on their country doing this stuff; but it’s also a
    wellbeing thing, it’s a health thing, and it’s making them feel a
    lot better.

    As with the other case studies, the SRA for Girringun was introduced into a
    context in which the organisation was already involved in negotiations with the
    Australian and Queensland governments for a range of issues. As Phil Rist
    recalled:

    ... our SRA was for extensive consultation with the community to gauge what
    the community’s concerns were regarding a whole range of issues: health,
    justice, education, the whole box and dice.

    Prior to the introduction of the SRA, Girringun had already been
    participating in a ‘negotiating table’, which is a forum established
    to enable the community organisation to conduct ongoing discussions with
    government. As Phil Rist explained:

    Our SRA complemented the ‘negotiating table’. In this context, we
    negotiated with the commonwealth about money for a corporate plan before the SRA
    was even mentioned. So we got the money, and that process was happening.

    b) Positive aspects of the SRA

    For Girringun, there was a positive aspect to the SRA in that it presented a
    good opportunity to facilitate community discussions, and the preparation of a
    community plan that dealt with a range of important issues:

    So in that document (the corporate plan), through the consultation process,
    within our crowd, we raised those issues, but we also looked at within the plan,
    hopefully, ways of addressing some of those issues. So on that aspect it was
    good, and yes I would go for another SRA .... We’ve got a document;
    we’ve gone through the community consultation, we’ve got a document
    that highlights their concerns, and possible ways of how we can address them. So
    from that sense it’s been a success.

    Another benefit of the SRA ‘is that it informs the community
    negotiating table’. Phil Rist explained that: ‘So we’ve done
    that; we’ve completed that. That particular SRA is finished. It continues
    to direct and inform the negotiating table as far as state agencies go. So
    although it’s finished, it still has a life as far as directing where we
    go with the whole thing, you know’.

    Although in principle the SRA had presented a useful opportunity to further
    focus the ongoing discussions, the CEO expressed some cynicism at the
    introduction of these kinds of agreements: ‘Then all of a sudden,
    ‘hey, I know what, why don’t we make this a SRA!’’

    A similar view had been put by other communities and organisations regarding
    their perspectives on SRAs. There was a sense in which the SRA is regarded by
    Girringun as an opportunistic device introduced by government to promote its own
    achievements in Indigenous affairs:

    So there was already that process, which had been going for two or three
    months at the time. And to be honest, that SRA could not have happened at all,
    because we were going to achieve it (the corporate plan); we were going to have
    a document anyway, whether we signed off on this SRA or not. I think this was
    just a way of the government saying ‘we’ve got another SRA;
    we’ve signed an SRA with Girringun’. It was going to happen
    anyway.

    This cynicism was supported by the fact that for Girringun, the SRA to
    develop its community plan was not an initiative from the community. As Phil
    Rist explained: ‘Government came to us’. This in itself was not
    necessarily a problem, especially in the vacuum left by the loss of ATSIC, and
    as long as the opportunity presented by an SRA could be effectively harnessed by
    Girringun in order to meet its own goals. Phil Rist elaborated:

    With the demise of ATSIC, a lot of us in the community thought this might not
    be a bad thing. They’ve taken away our entitlements, our government
    structures; they’ve taken away our national voice. This might be an
    opportunity for us to get some direct funding into the organisation and some
    direct outcomes.

    It was in this context that the Australian government seemed to be
    articulating views that were in accord with Girringun’s own notion of how
    funding should be provided to Indigenous organisations:

    ...the government were saying all the things we wanted to hear, ‘oh, we
    want grass roots ... so that money can easily flow to the grass roots mob, and
    where there’s good governance structures in place, good accountability,
    and well functioning boards in place, that’s where we want the money to
    go’. So all the rhetoric was there, and we thought, ‘oh this is not
    too bad, might turn out to be alright after all’.

    c) Concerns about the SRA

    Despite this positive sounding ‘rhetoric’, in Phil Rist’s
    view, Girringun nonetheless faced many problems in translating rhetoric into
    effective actions from the government: ‘we’re still waiting.
    We’re a grass roots organisation, but we still struggle to find where the
    money is’.

    A major concern expressed by Girringun, which was also found in discussions
    with other Aboriginal organisations for these case studies, is that the SRA
    process introduced into the community a sense that some real actions might be
    forthcoming from government to address the community problems.

    As Phil Rist explained: ‘What we do is raise peoples’
    expectations through this consultation process; so we’ve got to be careful
    how we manage that’. Yet these raised expectations also have the potential
    to bring about great disappointment and frustration:

    So if our mob have said ‘we’ve talked about this, we’ve
    gone through this process, we thought we were going to get some outcome from
    this thing, but we’re still none the better off, what the hell is going on
    here?

    And then that dissatisfaction starts to eat away at our mandate, for whatever
    reason. And then no longer have we got the mandate to negotiate on behalf of our
    mob, and it really becomes a problem.

    The government, to some degree, both the state and federal, have backed us
    into a corner ... but they’ve also raised expectations with this SRA. So
    it really calls for a strategic approach on out part, how we sell that process
    to our mob, with the view of not raising expectations, maintaining our mandate,
    and trying to implement a process that will deliver some good outcomes for
    us.

    The ways in which these unmet expectations were experienced by Girringun is
    illustrated by the establishment of the negotiating table. Phil Rist explained
    this point:

    I’ll give you my view of what I thought the negotiating table was. The
    SRA with that document (the corporate plan) has achieved its goal. We’ve
    got a document there, so that’s fine, and it’s informed the
    negotiating. My idea of the negotiating table was that at the end of the day was
    that more resources were going to come to this sort of thing because we’ve
    jumped through the hoops of government monitoring; we’ve got a community
    or corporate plan. We’ve got a good board, we’ve got financial
    accountability; we’ve done all that sort of stuff. But we still struggle
    to attract funds for long term sustainability.

    The problem for Girringun is that the SRA had provided funding and support
    for a negotiating forum for the community to discuss a range of issues of
    critical importance, and to develop a community or corporate plane based on
    these discussions. But there was inadequate scope within the SRA to provide
    follow up implementation and ways of addressing the issues raised during the
    negotiations and in the corporate plan:

    We’ve got the document, the corporate plan. It’s raised issues.
    ... What I thought would be an outcome of the negotiating table was the position
    at Girringun (to deal with education issues). We’ve highlighted the
    problem in the corporate plan; let’s negotiate through the negotiating
    table about ways of fixing that. And what I thought was a way of fixing it was
    for a position based here at Girringun that would go and talk to education
    providers, and investigate ways of addressing that problem, and start to
    implement, start to initiate some of that stuff.

    One of the major flaws, from Girringun’s perspective, was that the SRA
    provided no for ongoing positions within the organisation. This meant that the
    Girringun has been unable to achieve its longer term goals, thus casting
    considerable doubt on the usefulness of the SRA process:

    But what we’ve got through the corporate plan, through the negotiating
    table is again, expectations. Well, we’ve come to a full stop, because
    they (government) say we can’t employ someone to do it; and what
    we’ve got instead is already stretched personnel here trying to fulfil
    those expectations, and trying to look at implementing programs. So it’s
    compounded the problem even further, and that’s right across the board,
    whether it’s education, whether it’s health...

    The negotiations to develop SRAs exposed many of the problems Indigenous
    people encounter in their dealings with government:

    In spite of all the problems out there – government keeps changing the
    goal posts ... in spite of all that we still managed to progress, to go forward,
    with no uncertainty about positions here; uncertainty about whether
    they’re going to be here next year.

    This ad hoc nature of government relations with Girringun creates an
    uncertainty that impacts significantly on the latter’s capacity to operate
    over the long term as a viable community organisation. Girringun operates on
    project based funding, which covers wages and on-costs, but does not provide for
    core funding for the organisation’s long term economic sustainability:

    The way the government’s dealt with it at the moment, with project
    based funding, we can put in for a project, but we get a person on board, and
    it’s only for the life of that project, and that person’s gone
    again.

    A common problem for organisations such as Girrungun is that many members of
    the community of which it is a part feel alienated from government. As Phil Rist
    put it:

    But governments have got to remember that we’re dealing with people
    – a lot of our people haven’t got the basic understanding of the ...
    I’m not saying that in a bad way ... but it’s a fact that a lot of
    our people don’t have a basic understanding of government protocol.

    This is an ongoing concern: ‘That’s the sort of stuff that
    we’ve got to be careful about, because we have been consulted to death,
    and there are no real outcomes’.

    During the negotiations with government Girringun had argued for funding
    support for the ongoing economic and cultural sustainability of the
    organisation. Phil Rist said:

    One of the main things we said we wanted through the negotiating table was
    core funding for the long term sustainability of this organisation. The Plan is
    great; put that Plan on the table here. But if we don’t address the long
    term sustainability of this organisation it’s worth nothing...

    It’s been a struggle at times to maintain the enthusiasm, commitment to
    the long term sustainability, to maintain (a) relationship with the ICC. But we
    have to maintain a relationship: what hope do we have if we start bagging them?
    ... There’s no point doing that. So it’s really stretched the
    relationship at times. But we have to (maintain a relationship), we have to keep
    going. Because it’s not in the best interests of everybody if we started
    bagging ICC staff; they’re guided by guidelines and policies as well.

    Although the SRA provided a useful avenue through which the ongoing
    negotiations with government could be focussed, there were some issues raised
    about the relative mandates of the community, and of the government when
    negotiating. Phil Rist explained that the government had indicated it had some
    concerns about the nature of Girringun’s authority, or mandate for
    negotiating:

    Government always comes to us and says to us, when (Girringun’s CEO and
    Chairman) walk into a room, we want to be comfortable with the fact that you
    blokes have the mandate from your mob, to talk to us at the negotiating table.
    And that’s always one of their fundamental expectations of us as office
    bearers of this organisation.

    In other words, the government had indicated that it thought
    Girringun’s representatives at meetings did not have sufficient authority
    from the wider Aboriginal community of which it is a part, to participate in
    negotiations with government. This suggests a fundamental inequality in
    negotiating, which goes to the heart of prior informed consent issues. However,
    as Phil Rist elaborated, Girringun in turn, also had some concerns about the
    government’s mandate:

    It’s a problem, because they demand a mandate of us, but they
    themselves (government) don’t have a mandate. We’ve managed to get
    together nine traditional owner groups, and elected a board that represents
    those nine groups, and speak with one voice. In some places you’re flat
    out getting two families together. But here we have made a major achievement
    getting nine groups together.

    Phil explained that there are some problems with the same ICC officers not
    attending meetings, and a lack of continuity:

    Surely, if the CEO and Chairman of our organisation can go to those meetings
    as decision makers on behalf of our mob, surely we can expect our equal from
    those organisations to do the same. What it tells our Board and our hierarchy is
    that – or it could be perceived as ... they’re (the government) not
    taking us seriously, if they just send a junior officer to deal with it.

    ...in the light of what could be seen as lack of actions or outcomes, we
    still have to maintain our relationship with those officers.

    Girringun had its mandate questioned; which they (the Board? the Elders?)
    found ironic, when they (the government) themselves don’t have the
    mandate.

    The Girringun CEO made another observation about the unequal relations
    between the government and Girringun in terms of mandate and authority:

    Girringun operates over a huge area based on traditional boundaries that go
    into the Cairns region and into the Townsville region. When we get DATSIP (State
    Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy) come along, and
    they’re from the Townsville office, and we put a question to them, we say
    ‘Mr DATSIP, how are you going to address this problem in our area to the
    north here?’ (and DATSIP says) ‘Oh, well, we’re going to have
    to talk to Cairns DATSIP’.

    Girringun’s concern here is that the government officer from a specific
    regional office felt a need to obtain authority from another office before being
    able to make a decision, or to have the authority to voice an opinion; whereas
    Girringun already has the authority for its whole organisation and region. Phil
    Rist continued:

    So that is another problem; they’re broken up into administrative
    boundaries, and the problems associated with that. They demand it (the mandate)
    of us, but they haven’t got it themselves. And that’s even with
    education, health, the whole lot.

    There were also concerns at the lack of understanding about community and
    cultural matters by government. Girringun is under increasing pressure to
    conform more closely to the requirements of a white business entity, with little
    or no scope for integrating community or cultural matters into its operation. It
    used to be a place where Elders could meet around a campfire, and where they had
    felt a sense of place and belonging. As Phil Rist explained:

    We’ve got a fireplace at the back here, and very early in the piece
    when a lot of our Elders were still alive – there’s a few left, but
    a lot of them have gone, and there’s a fireplace at the back there, and
    it’s there for a reason. They said to us here, said to me, ‘we
    don’t want this place to become another big white bureaucratic thing. We
    want to be able to come down here, and to sit down near that fire there, and
    smell that smoke come through it, feel that smoke there, so we know that this is
    still our place’. So that’s a very symbolic thing, that fireplace;
    it’s there, but it’s never been lit for a long time. And we’re
    kicking and screaming, trying to fight this government urge to make us another
    white bureaucratic system. We’re being dragged further and further away
    from that campfire. And that fire’s out; and now we’re becoming this
    office –where’s our human rights in that? And I don’t know how
    we get that back; I don’t know how we make government understand that. We
    can find a balance, but we have got to also give a bit. I know it is
    taxpayers’ money.

    d) Follow up by government

    As with the other case studies, governments had not provided sufficient
    follow up of the SRA:

    It’s sort of ad hoc. There was no structured follow up to it; there was
    no structured lead up to it. That’s the way government is doing business
    now. They just get people to sign it: ‘that’s another SRA signed
    with people’.

    Asked if Girringun would pursue a different approach in negotiating with
    government for another SRA, Phil Rist replied:

    ... well, I would have a very clear direction going into one, with always the
    option of pulling out. We’d have to be very clear about what this SRA is
    going to achieve for us, how it’s going to achieve it, and some clear
    product including implementation, a whole process. I think it would work; I
    think you can make it work.

    Girringun’s CEO expressed some frustration at the government priorities
    being directed to Cape York Peninsula:

    The government is looking at long term sustainability but they’re
    focusing on Cape York. What about organisations outside the Cape?

    I don’t have a problem with my brothers and sisters on the Cape. What I
    do have a problem with is that rural traditional owners are falling through the
    cracks, because they think we can access mainstream services. I know people in
    our communities who won’t go to the doctor because it’s not
    culturally appropriate. And they’ve got mens problems or womens issues;
    they die because its not culturally appropriate for them to access mainstream
    services.

    But there isn’t a focus on rural traditional owners, because the common
    thinking is that they can access mainstream just like everybody else.

    These comments echo those by Gerry Surha of Baddagun organisation in
    Innisfail (in case study 3 below). Similarly, that organisation seems caught in
    a situation in which there is a perceived priority given to Cape York Peninsula
    communities. For Girringun, location is thought to be a problem, as Cardwell is
    between two major centres, Townsville and Cairns, which impacts on the relative
    access the organisation has to services:

    We’re remote. Townsville don’t want us, so their services
    don’t come up as far; Cairns don’t want to come down. There’s
    a high population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in this
    area here that aren’t being serviced properly.

    Phil Rist explained that this remoteness is one of the reasons Girringun has
    taken on a role in the region as a provider of services for the Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander community. Phil Rist mentioned another project that
    Girringun is involved in which had some more positive features than the SRA
    process.

    The example given is called the Cardwell Indigenous Ranger Unit (CIRU)
    project, which is aimed at developing a partnership between Girringun, the Great
    Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GRMPA), and Queensland Parks and Wildlife
    Service, for joint management in conservation and Indigenous heritage. The
    approach used for CIRU is called ‘adaptive management’:
    ‘there’s always a commitment by those agencies to get there ... and
    we adapt as we go along’.

    For this CIRU project: ‘one of the good things about it is that the
    ownership is shared amongst us all; there’s another reason why people are
    committed to that, is because we share ownership of it; it’s not just
    Girringun, it’s all of us’.

    The problems in program and service delivery by governments in the region
    prompted Phil Rist to comment further on the role of Girringun. He suggested
    that this organisation is well placed for government to enter into negotiations
    with. He said that Girringun can play a key role, following the loss of ATSIC as
    a peak Indigenous organisation. As a regional, community based organisation with
    a good record in the region, he argued, Girringun presents a good opportunity
    for the government to invest in for the provision of services and other
    community based initiatives:

    There’s a really good opportunity for the government to fill that void
    to some degree with the demise of ATSIC and regional councils. At the moment,
    who do they have if they want to talk to Traditional Owners? They might go to
    land councils. Apart from that, where do they go to? And there’s no peak
    organisation at the moment. There’s no structure in place where they can
    go. It’s in their best interests as well to look at organisations like
    Girringun. Because they’ve got a problem, and staring them right in the
    face is a solution, a possible solution, but they’re not prepared to
    invest in it, for the long term sustainability of the organisation that could
    fulfil that role. Girringun here, we’re a land and sea centre, but we do
    so much else as well, for a huge geographical area. It makes very good sense to
    invest in that organisation, because in this particular area we are a point of
    contact, and we are grass roots. So it makes good sense to invest in an
    organisation, that’s if you want us.

    • Case Study 2: Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association,
      Tasmania

    Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association is an organisation formed
    in 1972 representing the approximately 80 members of the Aboriginal community on
    the island. The Association is managed by an Aboriginal management committee.

    Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association negotiated 3 SRAs with the
    Australian Government, although only two of the SRAs were community based
    initiatives. One SRA was for ‘economic sustainability growing from a
    stable and affordable power supply’; another was for a ‘community
    wellbeing centre’; and the third, to address family violence.

    Both the SRA for the community wellbeing centre, and the one to address
    family violence were signed on 2 June 2005. The former was with the Australian
    government, represented by the Departments of Health and Ageing, and Education,
    Science and Training, and the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC).
    The family violence SRA was agreed with the Australian Department of
    Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (now the Department of
    Immigration and Citizenship and whose relevant responsibilities have been
    transferred to the Department of Families, Communities and Indigenous Affairs),
    and the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

    Sue Summers, the Administrator of the Association, provided detailed
    background to the three SRAs that were negotiated by this community. Other
    members of the community were also present and participated in the
    interviews.

    a) Process for negotiating a SRA for power supply

    Because of its remoteness, the cost of supplying electricity to Cape Barren
    Island is high. It is for this reason that the community had sought to obtain
    subsidised costs.[58] Despite
    ongoing discussions and negotiations over a considerable length of time, and
    with a wide range of stakeholders, the SRA for the power supply was not
    concluded, for reasons that Sue Summers explained in some detail.

    The history of Cape Barren community’s attempts to negotiate for a more
    affordable power supply go back some years, to the late 1990s or early 2000s.
    The existing power station, utilising a combination of diesel and wind, was
    built from infrastructure funding resulting from the 1991 Aboriginal Deaths
    in Custody
    Report recommendations:

    However, ‘no recurrent funding was ever provided to maintain or run the
    power station. To this day it runs purely on what we can get in revenue from our
    customers. So we own the power station and we run it’.

    Sue explained that when Tasmanian power was privatised in the mid-nineties,
    and split up into Hydro Tasmania and Aurora Energy, a Community Service
    Obligation Agreement (CSO) was drawn up for the islands of Bass Strait,
    ‘but apparently this is the islands of the Bass Strait except Cape
    Barren’.

    King and Flinders Islands, known collectively as the Bass Strait Islands
    (BSI), have an arrangement with the power supply authorities that enable them to
    receive power at subsidised costs. Electricity is supplied by Hydro Tasmania,
    using a combination of wind and diesel, while the business arm, Aurora Energy
    provides ‘operational, distribution and retail services under contract to
    Hydro Tasmania’. Since 1998 the BSI have had subsidised electricity
    supplied to them under a CSO contract with the Tasmanian
    Government.[59] Sue Summers remarked
    on this: ‘no one had questioned before why Cape Barren wasn’t part
    of that CSO’.

    When this question was put to the relevant authorities, the reply was that
    this was because responsibility for Aboriginal communities rested with the
    Commonwealth government (the CSO was with the Tasmanian State Government). The
    Commonwealth did, however, pursue discussions with Cape Barren Island community
    in regard to a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) trial site:

    That was the beginning: they came and they talked about COAG and about all
    the great things they were going to do, and a new way of doing business, and how
    levels of government were going to work together to provide really good outcomes
    for Aboriginal communities.

    Sue Summers commented that ‘I took it for somewhat of a test case as to
    how levels of government were going to work together to provide really good
    outcomes for Aboriginal communities’. It was thought that the COAG trial,
    and the then newly introduced SRAs might offer an opportunity for the Cape
    Barren Island Aboriginal community to work with governments to obtain a CSO in
    order to receive subsidised power. The Administrator explained the importance of
    obtaining subsidised costs for power to the community:

    Very early on in the piece, for all of the people that live here, the cost of
    providing energy to their household is probably something in the area of forty
    to fifty percent of their net income. That’s because ... the power here
    only really provides for electric lights and appliances. You couldn’t
    afford to use power for heating or for hot water.

    While the idea of a SRA for affordable power seemed reasonable at first, as
    Sue Summers pointed out, ‘...it was later on that I realised, well, no,
    they’re not going to come to the party on this because you can’t
    have a SRA for essential services’.

    The problem now was that both state and federal governments were saying that
    they did not have responsibility for providing recurring funding to the Cape
    Barren Island community for power generation:

    ... it is conflict between the state and federal levels of government; where
    there is conflict, well, if your Shared Responsibility Agreement is not the
    right mechanism to bring into practice the COAG way of doing business, what
    is?

    As with many Indigenous communities and organisations, Cape Barren had
    already been engaged in discussions with governments and others before the
    introduction of SRAs. Sue Summers explained:

    The timeframe with the Shared Responsibility Agreement in its various forms
    really wasn’t that long. But there had been, over time, even before we
    started talking about SRAs, many community discussions with what was then ATSIC,
    and the senior management of what was then the National Community Housing and
    Infrastructure Program (CHIP), and community consultations with Hydro Tasmania
    and Aurora and all sorts of things; so there had been a lot of
    consultations.

    The Administrator thought that one of the problems is that although there may
    be discussions at one level through the COAG process ‘I’m sure that
    they are not filtering it down properly through either the federal or state
    bureaucracy’.

    Although there had been lengthy discussions between the Cape Barren Island
    community, the electricity supply companies, the State Government, and the
    Australian Department of Families, Communities and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA),
    eventually these failed to reach any agreement regarding power supply to the
    island. This was despite the community having provided some funding to support
    those negotiations. Overall, the Administrator felt that, through the
    community’s experiences with SRAs ‘I’m not sure they’re
    necessary’, she had the feeling that ‘they’ve actually run
    their course’.

    b) Negotiating a SRA for a Health and Wellbeing Centre

    The community achieved more success negotiating a Shared Responsibility
    Agreement for a Health and Wellbeing Centre. This SRA was signed on 2 June 2005.

    The community had funds it had acquired from the Office of Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH), and some for an aged care program. For a
    long time, the Administrator explained, the community had wanted to develop an
    appropriate space where community health and wellbeing activities could take
    place. When SRAs were introduced, the community thought this might present an
    opportunity to work with a number of government departments, to move ahead with
    the health and wellbeing centre:

    What the idea was – having discovered that no way could I get these
    government departments to agree to put their money in together – then came
    Shared Responsibility Agreements. Let’s have the State, the Feds, and
    everybody help us to use up this surplus, give us a bit more if we need it, to
    get up the building that would in fact be able to be used for the oldies, and
    for the councillors if they came in – a whole range of, if you like,
    social health and wellbeing stuff.

    There were discussions and negotiations about coordinating government
    departments, and some additional offers of funding. However, the negotiations
    ran into some difficulties.

    The community wanted to renovate an old building in order to develop the
    health and wellbeing centre, but had some difficulties reaching agreement with
    government departments in regard to the way this would proceed. Another problem
    occurred when the project was already at a relatively advanced stage. Work on
    the development of the centre was delayed because difficulties were experienced
    with regard to dealing with ATSIC over the assets that were held in the
    building. The community at that stage experienced very real frustration, as Sue
    Summers explained:

    It didn’t really impact on the community, except that people were
    getting very anxious towards the end, (wondering) ‘is this really going to
    happen?’ We’d been talking about this Health and Wellbeing thing for
    quite a long time before, and even before we started... SRA was the way to go.
    Before that we couldn’t get anybody to talk together about pooling their
    funds. And so again, this reinforced for me that idea that, alright, you know,
    the (commonwealth) government think tank comes up with an idea – this is a
    great way to do business: ‘Let’s sort out our own issues with the
    state, and how we spend what Aboriginal funding, and so on ... but it
    wasn’t really happening.

    For Sue Summers, and the Cape Barren Island community generally, although
    there was much benefit in pursuing a SRA in order to develop an idea that had
    arisen from the community, there were many hurdles in actually bringing this
    about, and working with governments.

    With the Health and Wellbeing stuff, that was the stupidest thing. The
    community had a really good idea. It was going to be something that was of value
    to the whole community. It was going to save money for governments at all
    levels. And right at the eleventh hour, the federal government departments
    decide to start arguing among each other about petty things like
    ‘It’s our house (the building that the community wanted to
    redevelop), you can’t use it for that; you cant use OATSIH money to do up
    our old ATSIC place’.

    c) The Family Violence SRA

    The third SRA that the Cape Barren Island community signed was the only one
    of the three that had not been negotiated as a community based initiative.

    The impetus for a SRA to deal with family violence grew out of a COAG trial
    within North Eastern Tasmania that commenced during the latter part of 2003 and
    into 2004. In a parallel development, the Tasmanian Government, through the
    Department of Justice, was initiating a program called Safe at Home, as a
    series of measures aimed at supporting the Family Violence Act 2004. Sue
    Summers explained that there was a sum of $140,000 allocated to address family
    violence, which was ‘part of these elusive pooled funds from the COAG
    trials’.

    However, according to Ms Summers and other community members, this was an
    inappropriate allocation of funding, because Cape Barren Island community does
    not have problems with family violence (although it would no doubt benefit from
    preventative measures); and also because the idea for this SRA was not initiated
    by the community. As Sue Summers put it:

    It’s a waste of the taxpayers’ money to put $140,000 into a
    community – and we only got it during this year in the finish, and we are
    now being harassed to spend it before the end of the financial year, and we are
    trying to find meaningful ways of spending that money, that relate to the COAG
    Family Violence trials.

    There was a concern that the wider community may have developed an adverse
    and incorrect image of the Cape Barren Island Aboriginal community:

    This was all going to be to reduce the level of family violence; we kept
    saying, you can’t reduce what isn’t really there. And we said
    ‘let’s say that we’re going to develop programs that address
    the underlying causes of .... What we didn’t want was to have on
    anybody’s website, or publicly, or in the Social Justice
    Commissioner’s report, that gives the impression that Cape Barren Island
    was absolutely awash in all sorts of drugs, alcohol and violence.

    As another community member said:

    We’re stuck in the middle of this. The SRA came along and it has
    nothing to do with what we’re about. We’ve always been vulnerable.
    It’s just another mechanism to keep us suppressed.

    • Case Study 3: Baddagun Aboriginal Organisation, Innisfail, Far North
      Queensland

    a)
    Background

    This case study is based on interviews with Mr Gerry Surha, the CEO of
    Baddagun Aboriginal Organisation at Innisfail in far North Queensland. Baddagun
    is a small family owned and operated Aboriginal organisation, with five members
    involved in the business.

    Baddagun was established in 2002 to provide business and training
    opportunities for the community, especially young people, and to promote
    cultural activities, including dance and other cultural performances. The
    Baddagun Performers perform at Paronella Park, a tourism operation a few
    kilometres north of Innisfail town. The Performers are seven people, drawn
    mainly from the Jirrnul/Ma:Mu group: ‘they’re doing all right;
    that’s seven young people that are not sitting around at home and
    don’t smoke’.

    The Baddagun Aboriginal Organisation entered into a SRA with the Cairns
    Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) on 9 May 2005. The purpose of the SRA was
    to provide funding to upgrade community facilities for cultural performances; a
    bus to transport performers, and a project manager. The organisation also obtained funding from the ICC for some printing
    machines to print designs on canvas and other materials, as part of its goal of
    establishing itself as a viable Aboriginal business and cultural
    organisation.

    The community in which Baddagun operates is based predominantly on
    Ma:Mu/Jirribul and Yidintji language groups, as with many Aboriginal
    communities, suffers from lack of opportunities, drug and alcohol abuse, crime
    and low self esteem. Gerry explained:

    We have these issues too with our own people. We have to get off from keeping
    our people in that safety zone (of dependency). Because that safety zone entails
    money from my bank. Bottom line, straight to the point: we’re all coming
    from hardship, drugs and alcohol. My people are dying every day. But we have to
    put our hands up now, and a lot of people don’t like that... because the
    future is not having that safety net all the time for my countrymen.

    In Gerry Surha’s view it had been hoped that the SRA might provide an
    opportunity for Baddagun to address some of these difficult community social
    problems.

    When interviewed, Gerry Surha had quite a negative view about the SRAs. In
    part this was because the cyclone that hit Innisfail in March 2006 had had a
    devastating impact on not only the entire community, but also on Baddagun.

    b) Process in negotiating the SRA

    For the SRA that provided a community bus for Baddagun, Gerry explained that
    his organisation had been approached by an officer from the Cairns ICC to
    commence the negotiations that led to the agreement. This is the case in many
    SRAs: there was a pre-existing level of engagement between individuals in the
    ICC, who had perhaps been in ATSIC previously, and who had built up a long term
    relationship with Aboriginal communities, and members of the Aboriginal
    community.

    In the discussions between Baddagun and the ICC, Gerry explained, there were
    some concerns about the SRA guidelines, and a perceived lack of fit between
    those guidelines and the requirements of the community. Gerry expressed
    frustration at the overall involvement from the ICC, commenting that the SRA was
    ‘just a cover for the government to say ‘look, we’re doing
    this for the community’, whereas ‘behind the scenes, it’s not
    the real thing ... because they don’t follow up on anything’.

    The comments by Baddagun about a lack of follow-up from government perhaps
    reflect a common concern among many Aboriginal communities and organisations
    that have entered into SRAs, that these agreements had raised expectations
    within the community, including longer term aspirations, which in the end are
    unfulfilled. The SRA with Baddagun resulted only in the government providing the
    community bus. The organisation had also sought capital for infrastructure, and
    for ongoing funds to operate the business, but was unsuccessful. According to
    Gerry Surha, ‘they (government) came up with the bus, and that was
    basically it’.

    There were also some positive aspects about the SRA. The introduction of
    these kinds of agreements presented an opportunity for the Aboriginal community
    to negotiate directly with individuals from the government, as Gerry
    explained:

    .... you could speak one on one, you know, in regards to what your family
    group or the individual wanted to do. In that regard, to a lot of us in the
    community, that was a breakthrough – dealing with individuals.
    You’re talking directly with that person. That was one of the good things
    about it, because you didn’t have to get permission from the community,
    because no-one agrees anymore in the community; there are all different
    factions: same as this one – there’s six different family
    groups.

    c) Negative aspects of the SRA

    Baddagun’s experience generally with SRAs was negative. Gerry Surha
    felt that the process took too long. The negotiations were difficult and
    lengthy, and the organisation had some doubts about it succeeding. A very real
    problem is that once the equipment (the bus, and subsequently the printing
    machines) has been successfully agreed to and acquired by the organisation,
    there was then no possibility of trading it or selling it, should the community
    no longer require it or be able to use it. The SRAs, according to Gerry, had a
    caveat stating that the equipment cannot be used as assets: ‘What is the
    use of giving it to us and putting a caveat on it: you can’t use it as
    assets’.

    Gerry Surha had many concerns about the nature of engagement with the ICC in
    Cairns. The lack of information provided by the government about SRAs is
    ‘pretty horrific’. He thought there are insufficient Aboriginal
    people employed in the government agencies, who have the ‘knowledge to
    give us feedback, updates and basic information’. There was a lack of
    incentives for Aboriginal people, especially young people, to work in the ICC
    and its predecessor ATSIC, ‘because there’s too much crap going on;
    young people say we want a job that’s ‘real’, where we know we
    can be looked after’.

    In Gerry’s view, the government’s dealings with the community had
    caused some frustration: ‘You ring Canberra and ask for information, and
    they say ‘go through the Regional Office’’. He said
    ‘they say they have a capacity to do a number of things, but they’re
    limited in what they can deliver in regards to what they say they can do for
    you. So they contradict themselves. You’ve got to chase them up all the
    time’. This is particularly a problem for the Elders, as Gerry said,
    ‘you know, they’re shy, they won’t deal with them (the
    government)’.

    There was a greater need for the government to ‘sit down and talk with
    the grass roots people and see what they want’. Aboriginal people are
    seeking opportunities; including running their own businesses, which in turn can
    provide employment opportunities for the community. A lot of young Aboriginal
    people are leaving rural areas such as Innisfail for the cities in search of
    employment. Gerry Surha thought that the government should provide incentive
    schemes to attract young people.

    A real frustration for Baddagun is that because it is operated as a business
    organisation, rather than as a not for profit, it is not eligible for funding
    under certain government defined social program categories. Yet it also misses
    out on funding under economic programs, because it does not have the ongoing
    income required to be eligible under that scheme. This raises a problem in that
    the funding and projects available through the SRA for Baddagun is short term,
    and very limited in what it provides, so ongoing, long term funding is difficult
    to access: ‘you’re stuck in between again’.

    After cyclone Larry, Baddagun was in a particularly precarious situation in
    regard to its capacity to operate as a viable business organisation. It had
    received no funding from post-cyclone recovery sources, to enable it to
    re-establish itself following the devastation from the cyclone. This created a
    difficult context in which to seek funding from government to facilitate its day
    to day, and longer term goals.

    Gerry Surha commented on problems with the government funding that is
    provided generally for Aboriginal community programs and projects, and on the
    government’s poor coordination of them. For the SRA, the levels of funding
    were not agreed to as a result of equitable negotiating processes. Although
    Baddagun had submitted a budget for the project, ultimately it was the
    government that then decided on the amount that would be provided. Government
    support for Baddagun has been problematic, with only partial or inadequate
    funding. Baddagun needs sufficient funding to enable it to become established as
    a viable business entity – an outcome that could take some years to
    achieve.

    Gerry Surha thought that much of the government funding goes to the wrong
    projects: ‘a lot of those have crashed already’. He said the way
    that programs and projects had been funded by the government has the potential
    to cause division in the community: ‘we get the feeling that what this is
    going to create is a division between black and white communities again’.
    He elaborated:

    We’re feeling alienated, that because we’re black, we’re
    not going to get that help; and then for all the white fellas in the community
    they’re feeling pissed off because a lot of the money that the tax payers
    dollars are going into goes down the streets, are white elephants, and
    that’s the community programs. There are some good community programs that
    are really honest, and keep their books up to scratch; but there’s a lot
    out there that the government needs to pull the whip out and take people to
    court.

    Baddagun had experienced many problems not only with funding from government,
    but also with lack of coordination by the ICC. Gerry Surha felt that the ICC
    should have worked more closely with the CDEP ‘to get a better deal with
    us’. He expressed his disappointment at this, as he thought that it should
    have been the ICC’s responsibility to coordinate the funding from
    different government departments and agencies. He explained his
    frustrations:

    They’re (the ICC) supposed to coordinate that, but they’re not
    good at coordination, because I personally coordinated everyone else –
    DEWR, CDEP, etc. That’s their job; it’s a huge job, and so much
    pressure; I’m really worn out now. Because the cyclone hit, we had a big
    clean up job, we’ve got no income coming in now. With the bus, we
    can’t hire it out, trade it, up-grade it. It’s only 16 months old,
    but what will we do with it? It costs that much in fuel, insurance, to register:
    the tyres alone...

    ‘I mean, we don’t know the workings of government; that’s
    what the ICC is there for, to help us put together the deal. Why is it called
    the ICC? It should have been called something else. I don’t think that
    name is appropriate’.

    Gerry outlined what he perceived to be additional problems in the ICC,
    stating that that organisation ‘has a lot of influence over other
    organisations’ (such as housing). He thought the ICC should be more
    focused on its core task of coordinating, and his frustration was in the fact
    that he felt he had to do a lot of the coordinating work that the ICC should
    have been doing.

    An important issue concerns the need to have Indigenous people working in the
    ICC who understand the community:

    You only talk to white fellas now (who) only see you as numbers –
    there’s no looking beyond that. The numbers, to keep their jobs. The
    government has to put their thinking cap on and start listening, because you
    have to look beyond numbers.

    Another concern was about the lack of real training and long term goals in
    SRA projects. Gerry Surha said ‘99% of the people that are part of these
    projects will come out of these projects in twelve months time, and be lined up
    at the dock here’. He elaborated:

    And you ask them what they’ve done, and they’ll say ‘oh,
    we planted a tree’. But what did you learn about that tree when you
    planted it? What was the name of that tree? What process did you use? The
    learning capacity has been taken out of the projects through lack of
    information, communication and supervision.

    d) Follow-up by government

    A theme common to all the case studies is the inadequate follow up by
    government departments following the signing of a SRA. While Baddagun engaged a
    voluntary project manager under the auspices of the SRA, the government did not
    follow up on outcomes and progress.

    Gerry Surha explained: ‘when the project manager finished, DEWR changed
    its rules and regulations; we only got money for the bus’. Baddagun had
    quite a lot to say about the lack of follow up by government: ‘our
    predicament is twofold, because we’re not a community organisation, so
    there’s less chance that they’re going to follow up, because
    we’re a business’.

    Baddagun is focused on creating the potential for individuals within the
    community, especially young people so that they are able to gain skills,
    training and employment opportunities. In Gerry Surha’s view there was a
    strong sense that funding had been misdirected under ATSIC, and since, with
    money going to organisations and individuals who were not progressing the
    projects and programs for which they had received the funding. He felt that
    government should instead be funding ‘people who are genuine’. As he
    explained:

    A lot of people think they’re just going to get handouts, and get
    their business going ... There is a need to look at people who are genuine. As
    you know, as we all know in the community, there were a lot of businesses set up
    under ATSIC that were totally dependent on handouts.

    Baddagun aims to earn its own money:

    For that to happen it (government) has to address all the issues now that
    we’re talking about, SRAs, .... Lack of information, lack of
    consultation. They need to talk to the real people on the ground; specifically
    targeting the people in the communities that are proactive, not talk to the
    people that are sitting on the riverbank drinking all the time..

    There are also some issues about the geographical locations of communities
    and organisations in which SRAs have been signed, and which organisations and
    communities engage with government in regard to the SRAs. Gerry explained that
    Baddagun had been rated a low priority, in contrast to Cape York Peninsula:
    ‘We keep getting told (by DEWR and others) that the Cape’s a
    priority’.

    Baddagun’s experience mirrors that of others, and suggests that the
    SRAs are limited in terms of their capacity to provide real, long term funding,
    capital and opportunities. The SRAs are, in this view,
    ‘short-sighted’. Gerry Surha explained:

    Our frustration with the SRAs is that the amount of money that they
    (government) continually put into the same community organisations for programs
    that are continually going nowhere. It’s just another ATSIC in some
    respects. Because those programs – they only go about six months;
    blackfellas aren’t going to get any work out of it. They need to close it
    up and look at something else.

    • Shared Responsibility Agreements – some common
      elements

    The case studies vividly illustrate in practical terms the benefits
    and problems that are being encountered through SRAs. They reflect a number of
    similar concerns and issues. For example, they reveal a preparedness for
    Indigenous communities to engage with the government to address longstanding
    concerns at the community level. The direct engagement of the SRA model, free of
    intermediaries, offers much potential to improve the reach and outcomes of
    government programs and services.

    This is, however, a double edged sword. It means that when communities engage
    in the SRA process they have high expectations about what will be achieved.
    Having been listened to, communities expect government to act and to do so in a
    sustained manner, not just as a one off. The risk of the SRA process is that it
    will raise expectations that the government has no intention of ever meeting,
    leaving communities frustrated and potentially feeling disempowered.

    Community perspectives on what their SRA was about also suggest that
    Indigenous communities view their circumstances in a more holistic manner. So
    where the government may see the SRA as being a ‘single issue’ or
    one off project, the community sees the SRA within the broader context of the
    overall needs of the community. The SRA process overall was seen to be ad hoc,
    short sighted, and devoid of meaningful approaches that can address fundamental
    economic viability and sustainability for Indigenous peoples. This was also
    borne out in the survey (though in less explicit terms than through the
    interviews).

    The Girringun SRA provides a perfect example of the challenges for government
    in this regard: having engaged in an extensive process to identify the needs of
    the community, the SRA was then incapable of delivering on the aspirations of
    the communities involved. The damage this can result in is not limited to the
    trust relationship with government – it has a consequential impact on
    community organisations such as Girringun, who can lose credibility within their
    community for not delivering. This devalues a valuable community resource and
    does not capitalise on the existing capacity within the community.

    The Government must avoid the trap, as set out in the words of Phil Rist of
    Girringun, where Indigenous communities are ‘consulted to death and there
    are no real outcomes.’ So-called ‘single issue’ SRAs in
    particular have an increased risk of alienating Indigenous communities in this
    way.

    Outcomes of SRAs also need to be defined in a way that they are delivering
    the maximum benefit to the community, not merely based on a strict compliance
    mentality. For example, once a SRA has been entered into, there can be a lack of
    flexibility to amend the terms and conditions, even notwithstanding the very
    real possibility of changed circumstances and/or needs by the Aboriginal
    community or organisation. In Baddagun’s case, Cyclone Larry had had a
    devastating effect on the community, and on the Aboriginal peoples’
    capacity to use the bus for the cultural performances; yet the SRA was unable to
    provide for renegotiating the terms and conditions for the bus.

    As the case studies suggest, some SRAs relate to projects that were either
    underway or where the community had already been looking for assistance. They
    can in some instances amount to a ‘re-badging’ of an existing
    process. This is not a problem per se, particularly as it may reveal an
    ability from the ICC to tap into the expressed needs and wants of a community.
    On the other hand, it may also reflect a lack of genuine engagement which may
    also mean that it is less easy to build on the foundations of the SRA within a
    community.

    The Cape Barren Island experience also suggests that communities are crying
    out for direct engagement by governments. This can also lead to an inappropriate
    use of the SRA process, such as the discussions on the power station. Having
    identified an issue of such importance to the community, the ICC should be
    working to address the complex jurisdictional issues involved in exercise of its
    whole of government coordination role – boundaries need to be clearer to
    ensure that SRAs are not seen as the default process for addressing such complex
    issues for which the SRA program is clearly not designed.

    The interviews also demonstrate the enormity of the task being undertaken by
    Government through SRAs. The process would benefit from a clear focus that
    recognises the importance of building on the existing resources and capacity
    within communities; on adopting a development approach to nurture and grow this
    capacity; and of committing to a long term engagement and investment in
    communities, rather than seeing outcomes as ‘one-off’.

    Addressing the fundamental flaw of the new arrangements
    – Ways forward

    As Indigenous peoples, we must be able to effectively participate in decision
    making that affects our lives. This is not merely an aspiration or something
    that would be desirable – it is more than this. It is an essential element
    for successful Indigenous policy. This requirement... is (also) strongly
    supported in international human rights
    law.[60]

    This chapter has revealed significant flaws in the current administration of
    the new federal service delivery arrangements. The absence of processes for
    Indigenous participation at the regional level connected to broader policy
    development processes at the national level is a contradiction at the heart of
    the new whole of government approach. Despite the relative newness of the whole
    of government arrangements, there has been sufficient time for this issue to be
    addressed. The failure to do so reflects the insufficient efforts of the
    Government and the lack of priority that they have afforded to address this
    fundamental issue.

    As outlined at the beginning of this chapter, this situation is inconsistent
    with the legislative requirement ‘to ensure maximum participation of
    Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders in the formulation and
    implementation of government policies that affect
    them’.[61] It is also
    inconsistent with the repeated commitments of the Government, including at the
    level of the Council of Australian Governments.

    The making of commitments to the Australian public and to Indigenous peoples
    matters. Such commitments are not intended to make the government feel good by
    their mere existence. The satisfaction and pride should come from solemnly
    upholding the commitments that have been made – by proving that this time,
    the commitments actually matter.

    The lack of effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making
    processes is also inconsistent with Australia’s human rights obligations
    and inconsistent with a human rights based approach to development.

    Requirements for effective participation relate variously to the rights to
    self-determination, non-discrimination and equality before the law, as well as
    to the right of cultural minorities to enjoy and practice their culture. It is
    also central for the effective enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights
    – such as the right to the highest attainable standard of health and
    education.

    When Australia most recently appeared before the United Nations Committee on
    the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in March 2005, they expressed concern
    that the abolition of ATSIC may lead to inadequate processes to comply with
    Australia’s human rights obligations. The Committee stated:

    11. The Committee is concerned by the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), the main policy-making body in Aboriginal
    affairs consisting of elected indigenous representatives. It is concerned that
    the establishment of a board of appointed experts to advise the Government on
    indigenous peoples issues, as well as the transfer of most programmes previously
    provided by ATSIC and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service to
    government departments, will reduce participation of indigenous peoples in
    decision making and thus alter the State party's capacity to address the full
    range of issues relating to indigenous peoples. (Articles 2 and 5)

    The Committee recommends that the State party take decisions directly
    relating to the rights and interests of indigenous peoples with their informed
    consent, as stated in its General Recommendation 23 (1997). The Committee
    recommends that the State party may reconsider the withdrawal of existing
    guarantees for the effective representative participation of indigenous peoples
    in the conduct of public affairs as well as in decision and policy-making
    relating to their rights and
    interests.[62]

    There concern that the new processes ‘will reduce participation of
    indigenous peoples in decision making and thus alter the State party's capacity
    to address the full range of issues relating to indigenous peoples’ has
    been borne out.

    The necessity to ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples
    also comes from practical experience.

    Much of the failure of service delivery to Indigenous people and communities,
    and the lack of sustainable outcomes, is a direct result of the failure to
    engage appropriately with Indigenous people and of the failure to support and
    build the capacity of Indigenous communities. It is the result of a failure to
    develop priorities and programs in full participation with Indigenous
    communities.  

    Put simply, governments risk failure if they develop and implement policies
    about Indigenous issues without engaging with the intended recipients of those
    services. Bureaucrats and governments can have the best intentions in the world,
    but if their ideas have not been subject to the ‘reality test’ of
    the life experience of the local Indigenous peoples who are intended to benefit
    from this, then government efforts will fail.

    More importantly, if bureaucrats or governments believe that their ideas are
    more important or more relevant than those of local Indigenous peoples, or that
    they can replicate policies that have worked in different contexts – such
    as functional or urbanised communities, or communities which have the necessary
    infrastructure and support mechanisms in place, then again, they will fail.

    In the Social Justice Report 2004, I set out the challenge for the new
    arrangements to ensure that obligations relating to the effective participation
    of Indigenous peoples are met as follows:

    A clear challenge for the new arrangements is to ensure that Indigenous
    peoples can effectively participate in decision making processes that affect
    their daily lives. This participation needs to be at a national level, in order
    to influence the setting of priorities, as well as at the state, regional and
    local levels. Indigenous representation participation is not an either/or choice
    between national, regional and local level processes.

    In announcing that it intended to abolish ATSIC at the national and regional
    level, the Government stated that it intends to address the issue of Indigenous
    participation through the new arrangements by:

    • Appointing a National Indigenous Council of Indigenous experts to advise the
      Government in their individual capacities and not in a representative
      capacity;
    • Indicating that it will support the creation of a network of regional
      representative Indigenous bodies by 1 July 2005 to interact with the Government
      and utilising existing ATSIC Regional Council structures until then; and
    • Negotiating agreements at the regional level with the representative
      Indigenous body and at the local level with Indigenous communities.

    The question is whether this combination of mechanisms is adequate
    to ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making
    processes.

    At this stage, these proposed new mechanisms are either not in place or have
    not been in place for long enough to allow an understanding as to how they will
    actually operate and interact with the Government and with Indigenous
    communities. Accordingly, my comments here are preliminary in nature and will
    need to be revisited in twelve months time when all aspects of the new
    arrangements are in place...

    Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
    Discrimination... Australia has undertaken to provide equality before the law
    and not to discriminate on the basis of race...

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted that
    indigenous peoples across the world have been, and are still being,
    discriminated against and deprived of their human rights and fundamental
    freedoms and that as a consequence, the preservation of their culture and their
    historical identity has been and still is jeopardized. To address this, the
    Committee has called upon States parties to the Convention to:

    ‘... ensure that members of indigenous peoples have equal rights in
    respect of effective participation in public life and that no decisions directly
    relating to their rights and interests are taken without their informed
    consent’.[63]

    When Australia... appeared before this Committee in March 2000, the Committee
    expressed concern at the inequality experienced by Indigenous people in
    Australia and recommended that the Government not institute ‘any action
    that might reduce the capacity of ATSIC to address the full range of issues
    regarding the indigenous
    community’.[64]

    In his submission to the Senate inquiry into the ATSIC Amendment Bill, my
    predecessor as Social Justice Commissioner stated that the replacement of ATSIC
    with a non-elected, appointed advisory council might raise concerns of lack of
    compliance with Australia’s international human rights
    obligations.[65] This does not mean
    that the Government should not be advised by a specialist advisory body such as
    the National Indigenous Council. It does mean, however, that reliance solely on such a mechanism will not be considered sufficient to ensure
    the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making and hence
    to meet Australia’s international obligations.

    As noted above, however, the new arrangements do not rely on the
    establishment of the National Indigenous Council as the sole mechanism for the
    participation of Indigenous peoples. It is intended to be accompanied by support
    for regional representative structures and the engagement of Indigenous peoples
    through agreement making at the regional and local level. These provide the
    potential for appropriate types of participation of Indigenous peoples at the
    local and regional levels, depending on how they are implemented.

    I am concerned, however, that there are not clear linkages between the
    processes for engagement of Indigenous peoples and communities at the local and
    regional levels to a process for engagement at the national level.

    One of the principle findings of the ATSIC Review was the lack of connection
    between ATSIC’s national representative structure (the Board of
    Commissioners) and regional representative structures (Regional Councils) and
    local communities. It considered a number of options for creating a continuum of
    representation between these levels. The Review Team stated that the
    ‘representative structure must allow for full expression of local,
    regional and State/Territory based views through regional councils and their
    views should be the pivot of the national
    voice’.[66]

    The new arrangements do not address this issue. They maintain a demarcation
    between processes for setting policy at the national level with processes for
    implementing policy and delivering services at the regional and local levels.
    While the new arrangements are based on a ‘top down’ and
    ‘bottom up’ approach, this is in terms of government coordination
    and not in terms of Indigenous participation. The model sees Indigenous
    participation as coming from the ‘bottom up’ through the local and
    regional mechanisms. It does not then provide mechanisms for directly linking
    these processes to the national level so that they might influence directions
    and priorities at the highest
    level.[67]

    Two years on from this statement, it is now clear that the new arrangements
    are fundamentally flawed and do not ensure the effective participation of
    Indigenous peoples in decision making that affects our daily lives.

    The demarcation between the national and regional and local levels is
    problematic given that the new arrangements are premised on the basis of
    partnerships and genuine engagement of Indigenous people and communities. It is
    difficult to see how this engagement can take place if the relationship is
    limited to those issues that have been identified and imposed through a
    ‘top down’ approach.

    This pre-empts the outcomes of such engagement and negotiation. It also has
    the potential to undermine a sense of ownership and responsibility at the
    community and individual level. This in turn, is fundamentally inconsistent with
    a policy agenda that promotes mutual obligation and reciprocity.

    When we consider the benefits and problems of the Shared Responsibility
    Agreement making process, we need to be aware of these broader, structural
    problems at the regional and national levels. As this chapter shows, there have
    been some positive developments through the SRA process – although these
    are tempered by concerns about the ad hoc and short term nature of the program,
    and its limited potential to create sustained improvement in communities.

    Put bluntly, we need to ask: is this focus of the Government on the absolute
    minutia of detail in communities appropriate given the absence of the necessary
    systems to support long term improvements at a regional and national level? In
    other words, is the focus on SRAs akin to shuffling the deckchairs while the
    Titanic sinks?

    Indigenous communities and the Australian public alike needs to be satisfied
    that the time spent by government on SRAs is well spent and that they would not
    be better off focussing on the systemic problems of the new arrangements.

    While SRAs are a relatively low cost program, making up a tiny proportion of
    federal expenditure on Indigenous issues, they are resource intensive in terms
    of the time and capacity of government officials and of communities. Unless they
    can demonstrate long term and sustained improvements for Indigenous communities
    they may not represent value for money.

    There remains an urgent need for staffing and resources to prioritise the
    development of mechanisms for engagement with Indigenous communities at the
    regional and national levels. SRAs should not detract from this priority.

    In light of the concerns raised in this chapter, I have chosen to make the
    following recommendation. The content of the recommendation is similar to that
    of recommendation 4 of the Social Justice Report
    2005
    .[68] I have also chosen to
    identify some mechanisms for achieving the recommendation.

    Recommendation 1: Directed to the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous
    Affairs and National Indigenous Council

    That the Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs acknowledge that the
    absence of mechanisms at the regional level for engagement of Indigenous peoples
    contradicts and undermines the purposes of the federal whole of government
    service delivery arrangements.

    Further, that the Ministerial Taskforce direct the Office of Indigenous
    Policy Coordination to address this deficiency as an urgent priority, including
    by:

    • consulting with Indigenous communities and organisations as to suitable
      structures, including by considering those proposals submitted to the government
      for regional structures;
    • utilising the Expert Panels and Multiuse List of community facilitators/
      coordinators to prioritise consideration of this issue; and
    • funding interim mechanisms to coordinate Indigenous input within regions and
      with a view to developing culturally appropriate models of engagement.

    Further, that the National Indigenous Council request the OIPC to
    report quarterly on progress in developing regional engagement arrangements and
    the mechanisms put into place to facilitate Indigenous participation in this
    process.


    Endnotes

    [1] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    p136.

    [2] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), section 3(a),
    Available online at:
    www.comlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/ActCompilation1.nsf/0/889B9887C357132ECA257227001E0801/$file/AbTorStrIsland2005.doc.
    [3] Vanstone, A., (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous
    Affairs), Minister announces new Indigenous representation arrangements,
    Media Release ID: vIPS 22/05, 29 June
    2005.

    [4] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p2, available online at: http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book.pdf.

    [5] Minister Brough, Foreword in Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous
    Policy, “Indigenous Affairs Arrangements”, Canberra, August
    2006, p v, available online at:
    www.oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book.pdf.
    [6] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p2, available online at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book….

    [7] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p8, available online at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book….

    [8] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p40, available online
    at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book….

    [9] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p40, available online
    at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book….

    [10] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p40, available online
    at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book….

    [11] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, p41, available online
    at:
    http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book…..

    [12] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005,
    HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    pp110-111.

    [13] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005,
    HREOC, Sydney, 2005, p117 and
    pp112-114.

    [14] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005,
    HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    pp110-111.

    [15] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC Sydney 2005,
    p136.

    [16] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, Recommendation 4.

    [17] The regions where arrangements were ‘finalised’,
    ‘continuing’ or ‘to begin shortly’ were specified in the
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    pp111-114.

    [18] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    p117.

    [19] Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, Correspondence with Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner – Request for
    information in preparation of Social Justice Report 2006
    , 23 December 2006,
    p2.

    [20] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, Regional Indigenous Engagement Arrangements, available online at: www.oipc.gov.au/documents/RegionalIndigenousEngagementArrangements_Parameters.pdf.
    [21] The guidelines state that they ‘include’ these principles, although
    no other principles are elaborated elsewhere. Australian Government, FaCSIA,
    Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, Regional Indigenous Engagement
    Arrangements
    , available online at:
    www.oipc.gov.au/documents/RegionalIndigenousEngagementArrangements_Parameters.pdf.
    [22] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Native
    Title Report 2006
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2007, Chapter 3.

    [23] Vanstone, A., (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous
    Affairs), Minister announces new Indigenous representation arrangements,
    Media Release ID: vIPS 22/05, 29 June 2005, available online at:
    http://www.atsia.gov.au/media/former_minister/media05/v0522.aspx.
    [24] Vanstone, A., (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous
    Affairs), Minister announces new Indigenous representation arrangements,
    Media Release ID: vIPS 22/05, 29 June 2005, available online at:
    http://www.atsia.gov.au/media/former_minister/media05/v0522.aspx.
    A colour map showing areas where representation arrangements are in place and
    where consultations are continuing is available at:

    www.indigenous.gov.au/OIPC_Regional_Representational_Map.pdf.
    [25] Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates, Senate Official Hansard,
    No. 4 2006
    , Thursday 11 May 2006, Forty First Parliament, First Session
    – Sixth Period,
    pp185-186.

    [26] Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, Correspondence with Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner – Request for
    information in preparation of Social Justice Report 2006
    , 23 December
    2006.

    [27] For example, in relation to the proposal of the Gulf and Western Queensland
    Indigenous Regional Coordination
    Assembly.

    [28] Interviews conducted by the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Social Justice Commissioner with Indigenous community members who had been
    involved in the consultation processes for the establishment of Regional
    Indigenous Engagement Arrangements, July – December 2006. In a number of
    interviews with ICC staff they reported that the regional representative bodies
    ‘do not exist’ and were unable to provide contact information (for
    the following regions: Nulla Wimla Kutja, Yilli Rreung Aboriginal Corporation,
    Northern Tablelands Aboriginal Community, Kamilaroi, South Central Queensland,
    Malarabah, Perth Noongar, Wangka Wilurrara and Papta Warra
    Yunti).

    [29] Yates, B., Deputy Secretary, FaCSIA, Hansard, Senate Standing Committee
    on Community Affairs, Supplementary Budget Estimates, Canberra, 2 November
    2006, pCA45, available at
    http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S9783.pdf accessed 15 February
    2007.

    [30] Yates, B., Deputy Secretary, FaCSIA, Hansard, Senate Standing Committee
    on Community Affairs, Supplementary Budget Estimates, Canberra, 2 November
    2006, pCA45, available at
    http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S9783.pdf accessed 15 February
    2007.

    [31] Yates, B., Deputy Secretary, FaCSIA, Hansard, Senate Standing Committee
    on Community Affairs, Supplementary Budget Estimates, Canberra, 2 November
    2006, pCA45, available at
    http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S9783.pdf accessed 15 February
    2007.

    [32] Morgan Disney & Associates Pty Ltd, A Red Tape Evaluation in Selected
    Indigenous Communities: Final Report for OIPC
    , May 2006, available at
    http://www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/RedTapeReport.pdf accessed 19 January
    2007.

    [33] Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, Correspondence with Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner – Request for
    information in preparation of Social Justice Report
    2006, 23 December 2006,
    p5.

    [34] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    pp130-135.

    [35] The NIC has expressed significant concerns to the Government that it does not
    consider that their advice has been treated appropriately. In December 2006, it
    was reporting that there was ‘serious disquiet among NIC members who say
    they feel marginalised’ with the Government taking limited notice of their
    advice. NIC chairwoman Sue Gordon was quoted as saying there was
    ‘‘no question’ there were reservations about whether or not
    the council was being fully consulted on issues and whether our capacity was
    being utilised, especially through our dealings with the bureaucracy. The fact
    he (Mr Brough) undertook to improve the Government's interaction with the
    council is very welcome’ she added’: Karvelas, P.,
    Aboriginal adviser quits in
    protest
    , The Australian, 1 December 2006,
    p3.

    [36] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney 2005,
    p104.

    [37] Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, Report on the Crimes
    Amendment (Bail and Sentencing) Bill 2006
    , Parliament of Australia, Canberra
    2006, para 3.6, available online at:
    www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/legcon_ctte/crimes_bail_sentencing/report/index.htm.
    The Bill had resulted out of the Ministerial Summit on Violence and Abuse in
    Indigenous communities – that Summit had also not been attended by
    Indigenous
    representatives.

    [38] Senate Community Affairs Committee, Provisions of Aboriginal Land Rights
    (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006
    , Parliament of Australia, Canberra
    2006, para 1.3. Available online at:
    www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/aborig_land_rights/report/index.htm.
    [39] The dissenting report of Opposition Senators notes, for example, that they
    ‘strongly disagree with the Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination's
    (OIPC) submission that it was not their responsibility to communicate the
    changes with Traditional Owners. Even if it was the responsibility of the Land
    Councils, the shortage of time and resources made it physically and logistically
    impossible for Land Councils to consult their traditional owner base’:
    Senate Community Affairs Committee, Provisions of Aboriginal Land Rights
    (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006
    , Dissenting Report –
    Opposition Senators, Parliament of Australia, Canberra 2006, available online
    at:
    www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/aborig_land_rights/report/d01.htm.
    [40] Under the reforms to the Act they are legally correct in that they are not
    required to consult with the Indigenous community more broadly or the community
    that would be directly affected by any changes. This does not, of course, make
    the policy process a sound one. The amendments to the land rights legislation
    relating to town leasing does not include a caveat which would render processes
    invalid where consent has not been obtained or even where fraudulent behaviour
    has occurred: this also undermines a ‘culture’ of effective
    participation in decision
    making.

    [41] See Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2004
    , HREOC Sydney 2004, p105,
    pp174-175.

    [42] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2004
    , HREOC Sydney 2004,
    p105.

    [43] Australian Government and Northern Territory Government, Overarching
    Agreement on Indigenous Affairs between the Commonwealth of Australia and the
    Northern Territory of Australia
    2005-2010, schedule 2.3, 6 April
    2005, available online at:
    http://www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/IndigenousAffairsAgreement.pdf.

    [44] Australian Government and Queensland Government, Agreement on Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Service Delivery Between The Commonwealth of Australia
    and The Government of Queensland 2005-2010,
    paras 16-22, 5 December 2005,
    available online at:
    www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/IndigenousAffairsAgreementQLD.pdf.
    [45] Australian Government and New South Wales Government, Overarching Agreement
    on Aboriginal Affairs Between the Commonwealth of Australia and The State of New
    South Wales 2005-2010
    , para 32, 17 April 2006, available online at:
    http://www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/NSW_IndigAgreement.pdf.
    [46] NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Operational guidelines for NSW
    government officers negotiating shared responsibility agreements
    , available
    online at: http://www.daa.nsw.gov.au/data/files//operationalguidelinesforSRAs.pdf.

    [47] Australian Government and South Australian Government, Overarching Agreement
    on Indigenous Affairs between the Commonwealth of Australia and The State of
    South Australia
    2006-2011, paras 20 and 24, 17 April 2005, available
    online at: http://www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/SA_IndigAgreement.pdf.

    [48] Weatherill, Jay (MP), SA Aboriginal Advisory Council, Press Release, 23
    October 2006, available online at:
    www.ministers.sa.gov.au/news.php?id=814.
    [49] Australian Government and Western Australian Government, Bilateral Agreement
    on Indigenous Affairs between the Commonwealth of Australia and The State of
    Western Australia
    2006-2010, July 2006, available online at:
    www.oipc.gov.au/publications/PDF/SA_IndigAgreement.pdf.
    [50] Western Australian Parliament, Parliamentary Question without notice
    Lieutenant General John Sanderson - Appointment
    , Hon Giz Watson, 14
    September 2006, available online at:
    www.parliament.wa.gov.au/pq/qsearch.nsf/e55da5ba38cfb7c548256d870006876b/a24afc2daa865cf5482571ed007b9bd4?OpenDocument.
    [51] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005,
    pp140-146.

    [52] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney, 2005, Follow Up Actions 2-4, pp iii

    iv.

    [53] Some communities had more than one SRA in place in the community
    and duplicated their response for each SRA negotiated during the period. Due to
    this, the 78 responses received were collapsed, yielding 63 survey responses
    that represented the 71
    SRAs.

    [54] Australian Government, FaCSIA, Office of Indigenous Policy, “Indigenous
    Affairs Arrangements”
    , Canberra, August 2006, available online at: http://oipc.gov.au/About_OIPC/Indigenous_Affairs_Arrangements/OIPC_Book.pdf.

    [55]Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report
    2005
    , HREOC, Sydney 2005,
    p142.

    [56] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2005
    , HREOC, Sydney 2005,
    p142.

    [57] Australian Government, Australian Public Service Commission, Secretaries Group
    on Indigenous Affairs, Bulletin 1- March 2005, available online at:
    www.apsc.gov.au/indigenousemployment/bulletin0105.htm.
    [58] Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Review of
    Electricity Arrangements on the Bass Strait Islands
    , Discussion Paper,
    Working Group of Officials, September 2006,
    p14.

    [59] Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Review of
    Electricity Arrangements on the Bass Strait Islands
    , Discussion Paper,
    Working Group of Officials, September 2006,
    p14.

    [60] Calma, T., Launch of the Social Justice Report 2005 and Native Title Report
    2005
    , Sydney, 31 March 2006, p4, available online at:
    www.humanrights.gov.au/speeches/social_justice/sj_nt_reports_05.html.
    [61] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth), section 3(a),
    Available online at:
    www.comlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/ActCompilation1.nsf/0/889B9887C357132ECA257227001E0801/$file/AbTorStrIsland2005.doc.
    [62] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under Article 9 of the
    Convention – Concluding observations of the Committee on Australia
    , UN
    Doc: CERD/C/AUS/CO/14, March 2005, available online at:
    www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/898586b1dc7b4043c1256a450044f331/fff3368f665eaf93c125701400444342/$FILE/G0541073.pdf.
    [63] Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General
    Recommendation XXIII –
    Indigenous people, 18 August 1997, UN
    Doc: A/52/18, annex V, para 4(d), available online at:
    http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/gencomm/genrexxiii.htm

    [64] Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding
    Observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:
    Australia
    , UN Doc: CERD/C/304/Add.101, 19/04/2000, para 11, available online
    at:
    http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/0/eb3df96380faaf97802568ac00544c55?Ope…

    [65] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission
    to the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs
    Inquiry into the ATSIC Bill and the administration of Indigenous programs and
    services by mainstream departments
    , 7 July 2004,
    pp7-8.

    [66] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2004
    , HREOC Sydney 2004,
    pp104-105.

    [67] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social
    Justice Report 2004
    , HREOC Sydney 2004,
    p105.

    [68] That recommendation stated: ‘That the federal government in partnership
    with state and territory governments prioritise the negotiation with Indigenous
    peoples of regional representative arrangements. Representative bodies should be
    finalised and operational by 30 June 2006 in all Indigenous Coordination Centre
    regions’.