Our Work With Aboriginal Communities

We work with Aboriginal communities in a range of areas including the provision of community services and child protection, out-of-home care, disability services, local councils,  Aboriginal land councils, housing, juvenile justice and corrections. We look at ways the government can work with communities on the changes needed to deliver real improvements for Aboriginal people.

Increasingly, our work with Aboriginal communities involves identifying practical strategies to tackle major issues that impact on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people, particularly in relation to child protection, out-of-home care, access to disability support and other critical services. We review the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery to some of the most disadvantaged locations in NSW, and recommend ways that government can work with communities on the reforms needed to deliver real improvements.

See related reports.

Monitoring and Assessing Aboriginal Programs

Since July 2014, we have hadlegislative responsibility under Part 3B of the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW) for monitoring and assessing designatedAboriginal programs. Daniel Lester was appointed in October 2014 as theinaugural Deputy Ombudsman (Aboriginal Programs) with responsibility forleading this function, which is aimed at improving transparency and accountabilityfor the provision of services to Aboriginal communities and the outcomes theydeliver.

Our Strategic Projects Division –which is headed up by an Assistant Ombudsman and houses our Aboriginal Unit –supports the Deputy Ombudsman to implement the Part 3B function and ensuresthat it is integrated with our broader functions in relation to monitoring thedelivery of community services and handling complaints about publicauthorities.

The first program we are responsiblefor oversighting is OCHRE, the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal affairs,which was launched in April 2013. OCHRE has a strong focus on education,economic development, language and culture, Aboriginal participation in thedesign and delivery of services and strengthening governance andaccountability. It includes six key initiatives: Local Decision Making (LDM);Connected Communities; Opportunity Hubs; Industry Based Agreements (IBAs) andother Aboriginal economic development initiatives; and Aboriginal Language andCulture Nests. Another important area for our monitoring is the extent to whichOCHRE is delivering on its commitment to advance the dialogue in NSW abouttrauma and healing and to ensure that government adequately responds to theseissues through making ongoing changes to the way it works with Aboriginalcommunities.

Through Aboriginal Affairs (AA), theNSW Department of Education is responsible for coordinating the implementationof OCHRE. AA also leads the LDM, Healing and Aboriginal economic developmentinitiatives (including IBAs). The School Operations and Performance directorateof the Department of Education leads the delivery of Connected Communities andAboriginal Language and Culture Nests (the latter in partnership with theAboriginal Education Consultative Group or AECG), while State Training Serviceswithin the Department of Industry is responsible for implementing OpportunityHubs in partnership with contracted service providers. Aboriginal communitiesare key partners to all of the initiatives.

Our focus in carrying out ourmonitoring and assessment role is providing strategic and timely feedback toagencies, to enable them to address any shortcomings or gaps that may impact onthe capacity of OCHRE to meet its objectives.

Findings from the first year of monitoring OCHRE are available in theoffice’s annual report for 2014-2015, findings from the second year of monitoring OCHRE are available in the office's annual report for 2015-2016.

On 31 May 2016, in a special report tabled inParliament, the Acting NSW Ombudsman makes recommendations on fosteringeconomic development for Aboriginal communities in NSW. The intention is toinform the work of AA in developing the Aboriginal Economic ProsperityFramework under OCHRE.