Successes and failure, how have we really done in the past?
Over the last thirty years there has been considerable success in areas particularly in housing and physical infrastructure. Twenty five to thirty years ago many Aboriginal people living on remote communities did not have a house, had much poorer access to many of the services that they now have. Also the general understanding of the western world and how it operates has improved considerably. There have been many positives, these have often been under reported, this cannot be over-stated, however; we still have a long way to go to 'close the gap'. Many commentators point to the negatives and state that previous efforts at Community development have failed, if this is so, why?
It has been well researched and documented that Aboriginal communities have been significantly under resourced, see some of the CAEPR papers by John .
One area of engagement that has been substandard has been the attraction and retention of talented staff to implement services. Poorly paid, partially qualified and semi-trained staff has resulted in extremely high turn-over rates, poor outcomes and inefficient expenditure of funds. The critical need for well paid, experienced and qualified staff has, for the first time, been acknowledged in the recruitment of NTER Government Business Managers. Despite the GBM's being discouraged from engaging in community development, there are now several examples where they have used their experience and whole of government brief to positively contribute to the communities.
The graph illustrating pay rates of the 'old' community developer (MSO, CEO) position compared to the pay for the 'Government Business Manager' position and health professionals indicates this disparity and that Government has recently recognised this.
The principles of community development are not well understood or implemented in Australia compared to overseas. The focus of training and study in Australia has been on Community or Aboriginal administration and service delivery, Community development as understood in international development circles has not been a focus or priority.Government and some service delivery agencies have shifted the focus to service delivery and physical development rather than holistic community development, both are essential.
Community Development Principles include:
- Community Participation
- Community Ownership
- Empowerment and Accountability
- Lifelong Learning
- Long term commitment
- Access and Equity
- Social Action
- Self Help
A lack of regional support and mentoring using established community development principles for community development workers. Our work throughout Australia and exemplified in the Balgo exit paper highlights this, all other service deliverers, the school, police, clinic, church, arts and now the store have a regional, state, national or even international support network, to assist with support advice, admin, recruiting and professional development assistance.
The Community Corporation and CEO had no-one, all collaborators on this paper have experienced this, when the 'going gets tough, you look over your shoulder, and there is ...... no-one, save the community and your wits.' The graphic below illustrates all the on-site service agents and their regional support network, note that Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation has no such support mechanism.
Where there have been regional bodies providing Community development and services to communities
- There has been a disconnection between the regional bodies and communities in a structural sense, the Community often had little influence over what was done 'to the Communities'.
- There was no strong imperative or positive encouragement to utilise these services.
- Often the regional service providers come with a top down or 'we will develop your Community'' approach rather than a genuine working together, collaboration and facilitation perspective. This is resented and can lead communities to passive resistance or to decline to participate.
Since 1994 there has been a conscious move away from community development to a predominately physical services delivery model. The transfer of municipal services from the community corporations to shires has consolidated this position and left Community Development 'off the agenda'.
The functions, roles and services Community Councils used to provide and that are recognised as being very important but that have now 'slipped through the gap', broadly fall into the following categories:
- Community governance; leadership, management, and coordination (as distinct from corporate governance, the communications 'hub').
- Community development.
- Community and members services (the 'glue factor' or 'love jobs')
- Local corporate governance, management and administration.
The Government has recently recognised this, FaHCSIA have identified these as being important functions and categorised them slightly differently in their work on the 'glue' factor or those 'other things that hold a community together':
- Functions that benefit the broader community.
- Functions that benefit individuals and families.
- Functions undertaken on behalf of government agencies, eg a hub for community consultations.
- Basic services and supplies.