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. We review the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery to some of the most disadvantaged locations in NSW.

See related reports.

Monitoring and Assessing Aboriginal Programs

Since July 2014, we have had legislative responsibility under Part 3B of the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW) for monitoring and assessing designated Aboriginal programs. Daniel Lester was appointed in October 2014 as the inaugural Deputy Ombudsman (Aboriginal Programs) with responsibility for leading this function, which is aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the provision of services to Aboriginal communities and the outcomes they deliver.

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 ensure it is integrated with our broader functions in relation to monitoring the delivery of community services and handling complaints about public authorities.

The first program we are responsible for 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 the design and delivery of services and strengthening governance and accountability. It includes six key initiatives: Local Decision Making (LDM); Connected Communities; Opportunity Hubs; Industry Based Agreements (IBAs) and other Aboriginal economic development initiatives; and Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests. We monitor the extent to which OCHRE is delivering on its commitment to advancing dialogue in NSW about trauma and healing and ensuring that government adequately responds to these issues through making ongoing changes to the way it works with Aboriginal communities.

Through Aboriginal Affairs (AA), the NSW Department of Education is responsible for coordinating the implementation of OCHRE. AA also leads the LDM, Healing and Aboriginal economic development initiatives (including IBAs). The School Operations and Performance Directorate of the Department of Education leads the delivery of Connected Communities and Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests (the latter in partnership with the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, or AECG). State Training Services within the Department of Industry is responsible for implementing Opportunity Hubs in partnership with contracted service providers. Aboriginal communities are key partners to all of the initiatives.

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

On 28 October 2019, the OCHRE Review Report was tabled in the NSW Parliament. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the OCHRE programs over the past five years. It identifies how NSW government agencies can identify opportunities to do things differently to achieve long-term, sustainable and meaningful outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Findings from the first three years of monitoring OCHRE are set out in the Ombudsman's available in the 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 annual reports.

On 31 May 2016, in a special report tabled in Parliament, the Acting NSW Ombudsman made recommendations on fostering economic development for Aboriginal communities in NSW, including the development of the Aboriginal Economic Prosperity Framework under OCHRE.