Michael Currie is a Mununjahli Yugambeh man from South East Queensland. Currently employed as the Principal Advisor, Indigenous Development with The Benevolent Society, being responsible for building and supporting the organisations cultural capability through demonstrated and measurable Reconciliation efforts. Michael has over 20 years’ experience in working with vulnerable children and their families in the areas of Youth Justice and Child Protection across the jurisdictions of Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania. This experience includes working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled sector in the areas of prevention and early intervention policy, training and program delivery. Michael has management and policy experience in community and custodial secure care and 5 years living and working remote to deliver frontline child protection and support services with communities, families and their children.
Advancing partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations
Advancing partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations
This webinar explored the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous services working together to support families.
Audio transcript (edited)
MR MUIR: Welcome everybody to today's webinar, Advancing Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Organisations. My name's Stewart Muir. I'm an executive manager at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and I'm speaking to you today from Melbourne where AIFS is located on the lands of the Birrarung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation. I'd like to acknowledge the Aboriginal owners of this land and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to any Elders and the First Nations people attending today. I'll get my other presenters to tell you a little bit about where they're located presently.
So the nature of the work we do in the Child and Family Welfare Sector means we need to develop healthy collaborations and partnerships to deliver safe and effect services for families. Like so many things this can be challenging. So today we're bringing you a conversation with Yadeni Tago, a partnership between two welfare agencies in Queensland, the Mercy Community and Kurbingui. These two agencies are mid partnership and are working with the partnership principles that have been developed by SNAICC. So they've really bravely and kindly agreed to share their experiences so far with us today.
So to our presenters. We had planned to have Catherine Liddle the CEO of SNAICC with us today but unfortunately she's lost her voice to tonsillitis but we're very glad to have Michael Currie here to help us set the scene. Michael's a Mununjahli Yugambeh man from South East Queensland who's worked with SNAICC and their partnership principles all around the country and has boldly stepped into the breach here today. Michael also works as the principal adviser for Indigenous Development at The Benevolent Society in Queensland and as well as his work with SNAICC Michael's got over 20 years' experience in working with vulnerable children and their families in the areas of Youth Justice and Child Protection and has worked across Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania.
So Michael's going to talk us through the SNAICC partnership principles that underpin the partnership that we're talking about today and then I'll introduce the members of Yadeni Tago. So welcome Michael. Over to you.
MR CURRIE: Thank you, Stewart. I'd like to begin by also acknowledging the traditional owners on the lands on which we are all gathered in our respect locations. For me it's the Minyangbal people on the border between Yugambeh country and Bundjalung country. So I'd like to pay my respects and their continued connection to land and culture.
Thank you for the introduction, Stewart. Look to start off with, you know, we know that a majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are strong, resilient and nurturing and they provide support, loving and positive environments to raise their children in. However, some of our mob continue to face significant challenges in overcoming the impacts of colonisation including historical and ongoing discrimination, exclusion, systemic childhood removal, ex‑generational trauma and dislocation from land and culture, community disempowerment and poverty.
We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are stronger when they engage with child and family support services improving life outcomes for vulnerable children and the national data shows that the level of access to support services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families as sometimes described as hard to reach. What we see is that there are significant barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement, barriers that can be overcome by working within a culture conference framework and for the purposes of this discussion engaging in effective partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.
Based on all the available evidence genuine and respectful partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations and non-indigenous service providers have multiple benefits and we'll hear from Yadeni Tago and Kurbingui about that but some of these include ongoing cultural confidence and safety capability development for non-indigenous service providers, governance and service capacity development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, development of shared capacity to respond to community needs and development of individual and community capacity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the areas including workforce and community leadership.
Despite partnerships being so crucial our peoples speak of negative experience or tokenistic relationships labelled as partnership which has left a level of mistrust particularly from a Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community perspective. The perception is or has been that non-indigenous services believe that they can use partnerships to tick a box of cultural competence and community engagement without a commitment to deeper and more sustainable relationships or local community empowerment.
So what does it mean to engage in genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations? What do these look like and how can you do it?
SNAICC has recognised eight core principles that underpin genuine and successful partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous service providers. These principles are detailed in SNAICC resource Creating Change through Partnerships and the link which will be provided to everyone after the webinar.
So look in summary, the core principles are first, the long term commitment for sustainable relationships based on trust. This requires significant time spent on relationships building between staff, organisations and communities. Partners must commit to an ongoing relationship not only for specific activities or projects but the relationship between the organisations.
Second, non-indigenous organisations must respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and history. This requires a commitment to build cultural understanding, to consult, to listen to local community, to build relationships with local community Elders and to value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and honour it.
Third, organisations must commit to self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This requires empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to lead and respond to child and family needs and fourth, organisations must be dedicated to improving the long term wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities which requires identifying and sharing respect to strength and supporting children and families.
Fifth, organisations must commit to sharing responsibility for the partnership objectives and activities which requires partners to work together to develop indicators of success and to monitor and evaluate progress. Sixth, process elements must be valued as integral to support the partnership which requires agreements, clarifying commitments, roles and accountability. Partners must redress unequal or discriminatory relationship structures and outcomes by correcting power and resource imbalances.
And finally, non-indigenous organisations must commit to working differently with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families which requires the development of cultural safety in service delivery and a recognition of the fact that non-indigenous approaches are often not the best way to engage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
These principles are fundamental to the creation and maintenance of a genuine successful partnership. SNAICC's creating change through partnerships. Resource further breaks down the creation and maintenance of genuine partnership into four key strategies and we'll talk through those with our partners today but essentially building cultural competency of non-indigenous organisation in a genuine partnership approach. Spending time building respectful relationships of trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities and their organisations.
This can be done through connecting, listening and importantly sticking around. The third one is, the third part of that is to listen and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to determine how you can support capacity for community led responses. Non-indigenous organisations need to listen to the needs and aspirations and when and where and how they can use their resources, knowledges and skills to support the priorities of communities. Adopting a genuine partnership approach requires not duplicating or competing with existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled child and family support services.
There is a commitment in the new Closing the Gap agreement to build the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations to deliver services in their own community. So partnership organisations need to think about what role they can play in helping build the capacity of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
And finally, the final strategy is to establish the processes, governance structures and accountability required for effective and sustainable partnerships. A strong and enduring partnership requires the development of a clear, effective governance structure for the partnership and the establishment of processes that supports and sustain the ongoing development of the partnership. Further information about these strategies and practical tips about how you can apply them in your organisation are available in the resource.
Finally SNAICC has had the privilege of working with a variety of partnerships across Australia to help strengthen their relationships and work they are doing and Kurbingui and Mercy have shown a real genuine commitment to these principles and despite facing some challenges they have a deep commitment to working together to overcome them and ultimately to get better results for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of which they serve. So thank you, Stewart.
MR MUIR: Thank you, Michael. That's a very nice segue to hearing about how these principles work in practice. So to tell us a little bit about that we have Glenda Jone-Terare and Kevin Maund from Kurbingui and Julie Nelson, Martin Greller and Kym Landgill from Mercy Community. Together they are Yadeni Tago. So welcome everybody.
YADENI TAGO: Hi.
MR MUIR: Maybe we can start beginning with you Glenda telling us a little bit about Kurbingui.
MS JONE-TERARE: Kurbingui was established in 2001. It's an Aboriginal community controlled organisation. It started off as a response to young people misbehaving in the community and they started off as a sports association. Then what happened is that organisation went over to another place and then this then grew into a youth and family development organisation delivering suites of services such as youth and family support in the child protection area, domestic and family violence, employment training education, skilling Queenslanders for work in education and community in schools, social and emotional wellbeing, the National Suicide Prevention Trial and we also have the Youth Justice Community Youth Diversion programs and all of that is underpinned by our family led decision making through our family wellbeing and Yadeni Tago which is the indigenous Family and Child Connect in partnership with the non-indigenous Family and Child Connect.
MR MUIR: So maybe Kym, you could tell us a little bit about the other side of the partnership which is Mercy.
MS LANDGILL: Sure. So Mercy Community is a large state based non‑government organisation. We have three major operational delivery areas, NDIS and aged care and the area that I'm responsible for and that this partnership sits within is the child and family service delivery. So we deliver up to 40 programs at the moment. Anything from kind of early intervention and prevention right through the service continuum, counselling individual families for a range of multicultural service provision including asylum centre. Fostering counselling, fostering kinship care and the residential out of home care services. So a very broad suite of services and we've been in operation since the late 1970s. So we've been around a while.
MR MUIR: Okay. Thanks Kym. So we have the two organisations and then we have the partnership, Yadeni Tago. Maybe Kevin, if you could tell us a little bit about what that partnership is and what Yadeni Tago means?
MR MAUND: Yeah. Good afternoon. So we were looking obviously for the partnership and we wanted to symbolise it with a traditional local Turrbal name which is the local people of the North Western Region. We approached the local community Elder who's a Turrbal Elder and Yadeni Tago was chosen in that sense for Yadeni advancing and Tago meaning together.
You heard Michael mentioned Yacka Tago before, a little slip up there, which is the other one which is working together which is our family wellbeing which sits alongside that. So both of those coming from the Turrbal language here in the North Brisbane area.
MR MUIR: Thanks Kevin.
MR MAUND: With I guess, the Yadeni Tago itself I will handover to Julie.
MS NELSON: Good afternoon. Yadeni Tago is an integrated service between Mercy and Kurbingui to deliver indigenous Family and Child Connect and the non-indigenous Family and Child Connect for the entire Brisbane region and we are the community gateway for Child Protection. We're an intake assessment and referral out service.
MR MUIR: Thank you. So I know a lot of – well a lot of the people listening and I know there's often a lot of questions for SNAICC too in terms of how partnerships get started. So Glenda, I wonder if you could tell me who approached who to get the ball rolling here? Like did you know from the start you wanted to create a partnership or is this something that just happened?
MS JONE-TERARE: When the Family and Child Connect funding came out it was a prerequisite for all non-indigenous organisations to have a partnership with an Aboriginal community controlled organisation with a solid footprint in Brisbane and the different catchment areas. Our previous experience was that non‑indigenous organisations would then put our names down and then come and talk to us later and then confess that they'd put us down as partners and then want to be our friends once they had secured the funding.
In this instance when the funding opened, when the submissions opened up we had a lot of knocks on the door but we were also – it started with three of us and that was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service and they had a separate portfolio called the Indigenous Family and Child Services, Support Services and they had a suite of services that they used to provide in addition to the health services and then there was us, Youth and Family Development.
What we thought was, wouldn't it be great if we interviewed all of these non-indigenous organisations, we got cultural references and we looked at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations being the lead. We actually did something that was unique and that could possibly make a difference. It was the aim to have greater accessibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and see if we could push that accessibility to the earlier end of early intervention and prevention rather than have our families continue to be at the pointy end with child safety intervention all the time.
And so we did a range of interviews and some of the non‑indigenous organisations were quite offended and thought we were quite arrogant because they had so much power, they were big, they were offering us all these things and couldn't understand how we thought that we could choose because we really needed them.
The community, we went back to our Elders. We have the Brisbane Northside Elders Group here and other community members and then the manager at the time for AIFS (ATSICHS??) went back and talked to Elders and community members over there, at their side of town and we had a big conversation over who said what and the cultural references that we did get, what we didn't get and our community was unanimous in the relationship in the last about 15 years with Mercy Community because they had really made a big difference in changing the way they worked, owning the past history they had with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and working really closely and listening and making changes in the way they worked.
So we went and we said that we really wanted to partner with them and then we all set about creating the vision of what that partnership would look like. Not long after we got together, the three organisations, things changed and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service restructured and went in a different direction and it wasn't a direction that they wanted to be – that fitted with this partnership any more. So they exercised an exit strategy and that was fine. It was all smooth. We still work with them in partnership and then we just evolved into a partnership between Mercy and Kurbingui.
MR MUIR: Thank you. So Julie, I guess from the perspective of Mercy what was the main attraction of this partnership for you and what brought you into it? I suppose that really interesting interview process that Glenda mentioned.
MS NELSON: Yes and I think it was because of the way that Kurbingui and AIFS (ATSICHS) had approached the whole process which was quite different from the norm, I think it was an exciting opportunity for Mercy to participate in that process and obviously it was kudos to them that they got chosen in the end. I think the model that they came up with was very different to what the tender specs wanted so I think that too was an exciting opportunity.
I think there was – it enabled – it also enabled Mercy to build on their cultural capability as a non-indigenous organisation and I think between the three organisations there were opportunities there for sharing resources that you wouldn't necessarily have gotten in other ways. There were lots of challenges but you know, we had the resources and the goodwill and the commitment to overcome them.
MR MUIR: Great. So I wonder if I could bring you into the conversation a bit, Martin. I'm really interested in what the practical work a partnership involves. So you know, meetings, governance, discussions you have. I mean I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how that works in practice.
MR GRELLER: Yeah. Sure. Thanks Stewart. Probably building on what Julie was just mentioning too, I think it's important to note that it's a completely integrated program. So our staff are co‑located. Our Mercy staff sit here on Kurbingui grounds. We share the office space. We literally share everything together including caseloads. So we don't – we have our staff working together. Mercy and Kurbingui are purely and completely alongside each other rather than, you know, allocation of particular cases to particular workers which is a really neat and unique, I think in some respects, way of kind of co-delivering and really making the most of that integrated model.
So in respect of that we've got a formal government structure. At a minimum we catch up for a partnership meeting every month. We've got a structured agenda for that. So you know, similar to other programs but at a partnership level. So you know, it's about spending that time together to yarn, to really acknowledge each other. Our differences of opinions, at times different organisational perspectives. Often our values align but sometimes perspectives are a little bit different.
So whether it's talking about the actual deliverables of the program, continuous improvement. We have shared conversations around human resources, about our policy and procedure and sometimes the challenges of the external environment as well. So I think again the really unique thing is like what would usually be internally facing organisations we very much embrace the opportunity to share those conversations absolutely mutually.
So we do that on at least a monthly basis and probably important to note that we also have an external facilitator that's been on board and facilitated that process over the last five years since the partnership began and part of that's keeping us on track and attending to the agenda but it's also really importantly capturing the story of the partnership and the progress over time.
MR MUIR: And what made you decide to get the facilitator involved?
MS JONE-TERARE: That was my idea. Given our professional and personal experience with non-indigenous organisations we sat down and we imagined the worst and so we wanted to put things in place to see what we could do to prevent the worst from happening and having an independent facilitator to help us stick to the principles of our partnership, to keep us behaving appropriately, when we are all so passionate at the table, was something that we decided to do.
And then as well, make sure we recorded the good, the bad, the ugly and how we – where the strengths were and how we got past it and then we were able to reflect on our process and then also have those fresh eyes regularly. So when we did get in a rut she would be able to pull us up and then remind us of some of the things that we'd achieved that we'd forgotten about that were really, really huge challenges and that would reenergise us to keep going, yeah.
VOICE: Can I just add, Glenda, a lot of the stuff when you're talking about partnership and Michael touched on it in the beginning, when you look at mitigating, I guess, the fear or the trust that you would like, I mean obviously Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations come in with that fear or mistrust like Michael had mentioned about organisations coming in, saying that this is going to happen and then they step away but also on the other side for the non-indigenous organisations. You know, they have that fear and trust as well.
If they've worked with an organisation before that hasn't been able to live up to it or has pulled away in a similar context or there's, you know, in the small part sometimes that small percentage of an organisation living up to the stereotype that's been fed, you know, that people know. So it really helps those parties in that process to be able to get that trust and that working better and somebody external to both of the organisations do better.
MR MUIR: Thanks, that's really interesting. I guess, Glenda, I think it's been about five years now that the partnership has been going and I wonder if you could reflect on how the partnership has evolved or changed over the five years that it's been going?
MS JONE-TERARE: Well I think Mercy Community has had three CEOs and different structures and Kurbingui has just about pulled up every bit of space that we could and have expanded our programs and in the meantime our program, our Yadeni Tago partnership, has gone through massive changes and then nothing because we were all preoccupied with other matters and then we've given that some energy again when we realised we needed to do that and that was really tough, trying to find that balance to keep paying the energy that was needed to it.
It doesn't – the vision that we had at the beginning, it's still what we're looking for about building that cultural competency, the capacity building of all of the staff, the relationships, sharing the skills and knowledge, building that community, greater accessibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and non-indigenous families and culturally and linguistically diverse families right throughout the Greater Brisbane region but the inside part of it looks a little bit different.
I think the good part about that is that we've become really adaptable to the needs of the community and so the program responds as such. At this point in time homelessness and domestic and family violence are the really big demands on our workers at the moment and over the five years there's been changes in where the demands are and how we respond and what training we get our staff and who we need to come in and share resources about. So that's the beauty of this partnership. We can respond as quick as we need to because we – and it doesn't have to be money, it can just be people power, it can be anything, anything at all. When I think entrenched in a shared value system and agreed set of principles is really key, yep.
MR MUIR: And how do you agree on those principles? What stage does that happen?
YADENI TAGO: Most of the time we just agree because we have those shared values and we already set that out in the outset. Sometimes we don't agree, but the relationship continues to last because we don't agree, but we're okay after we disagree because we do want this to work and the new CEO has brought a lot of energy into this partnership as well from a higher organisational level which is something that wasn't there before. So that's really great. We all went through the review and with SNAICC, and Michael can attest that we all got seriously kicked up our patooties for um getting slack about some of the things, and we got reality slapped a few times where we had neglected each other. It was the best process that we went through because we're now invigorated and we've got all the continuous improvement strategies and we all fought and we're all still sitting at the table going, 'We still wanna do this.'
MR MUIR: Yeah, I think that's really important, is that, being able to disagree and, or discover maybe things aren't quite right but that you can continue and can overcome.
YADENI TAGO: Stewart, if I could just add too that I think a lot of people joining in for the webinar would agree that often in terms of service delivery, it's hard to find that time to have those conversations and to have those meetings, but - and particularly in the partnership and what we've learned in going through the SNAICC partnership review and with Michael, it's really paying attention to spending that time together, not only because it you know nurtures the relationship but it allows you to have the time to really reflect on whether you're meeting the global intentions that you set out to do. More than just programmatic delivery but are you actually - are we actually morphing together to address things like over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in statutory care. So again it's not often made, it's often an expectation contractually, but it really requires an investment of time and commitment because it's often the first thing we you know I think try to limit in our diaries and our calendars when we're flat out, and last year with Covid was probably a good example of that. But even during Covid we made sure that we you know used our, you know Microsoft Teams, either platforms to have that connection, and it was a bit awkward and clunky at the start but a worthwhile investment and probably the one thing that I would really shout out to anyone considering a partnership that unless you're willing to make that time and be open, um it's probably a little bit flawed.
MR MUIR: Yep.
YADENI TAGO: And not to get caught up on service delivery only. Because that's where we struck issues around not paying attention to our Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander staff being culturally safe. Because the focus was just specifically on service delivery while everybody was running around with the Covid stuff and the other matters. And we were so busy and we ended up, because there is the communication with our staff, they were the ones that pulled us up, saying, 'This is not going really well. Everyone's so focused on service delivery. We need to pull back. We need to be culturally safe again.' So we did pull it up and we did stop and we went back and we started looking at what are we not doing and then elders and community members come back in and really helped us put it all back together and we - the demand list is so huge and we just fell into it and we own it.
YADENI TAGO: Yep.
MR MUIR: You've kind of anticipated a little my next question, because you mentioned earlier there have been times when maybe the partnership was maybe not - I wouldn't say less strong but where you were less-focused on the partnership? I wonder, Kevin, if you could tell me about how you then reconnect or how do you - with the partnership and how do you get your partner organisation back on board?
MR MAUND: Ah look you know like you said, it's probably been spoken about already, but yeah I think it's keeping those meetings, making sure that we're still connecting, you know, through that process. You know, the stuff that we did with Michael and with SNAICC was probably again like 1 December, one of those really big ones where we had to have a step back and have a look. I'll be honest though I really didn't know what we were in for. We got in there and I sort of looked around the room and went, 'What is it? I've got no idea.' You come in for a partnership meeting and then it was almost like blindsided but I think it was really really positive because it was able, for everybody within that room, the organisations, the partnership as well as the individuals to really reassess that whole process. So you know what I mean, like when looking connection to other partnerships, we obviously have our other key partners within community that are also, we can lean on you know to assist and continue the great work, but yeah sometimes when you're a little bit too close to it you don't really see what's going on and it takes those others, like Glenda said, sometimes staff or someone to do that. So yeah when I saw the question I kind of laughed when you said it was a little bit less active. Mate, it hasn't been less active, like it's the active program, it's quite full on, but that again goes back to what Glenda was saying about looking at program delivery and not as a main focus and not looking at the partnership as well, in an equal, you know just as equal amount of you know what do you call it, like effort or giving it the equal amount of knowledge - the acknowledgement it needs.
YADENI TAGO: I think like any relationship to be successful you have to be able to look at yourself and say sorry, and I think we did that quite a bit during that exercise. Kind of going, ah you know, really sorry. And so that was, like for me I found that really cathartic, I thought that was really important, and that we have created safety in being able to say sorry and yeah you're right Marty, forgiveness with each other around, 'Don't worry about it, let's fix this now and move forward.'
MR MUIR: So just bouncing off that a little bit, I guess Glenda, what would you see as sort of the three main strengths of the partnerships so far?
MS JONE-TERARE: Strength is a determinater - - -
MR MUIR: Well the three things that underpin the success I guess is another way of putting it.
MS JONE-TERARE: Innovation, determination, commitment.
YADENI TAGO: Short and sweet.
MR MUIR: Yep? Does everyone agree?
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
YADENI TAGO: Yep, we do think outside the square. Yep.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
MR MUIR: And Julie, I guess coming from another part of the partnership, I mean has there been anything about the process of the partnership, or indeed the work with SNAICC too that surprised you?
MS NELSON: I'm not easily surprised at my age, Stewart. I guess we learnt a lot of things. I think what surprised me about the SNAICC process is, to be honest, we were all kind of - well I was patting myself on the back, I won't speak for others, that you know we'd placed a number of hurdles and challenges and we'd overcome you know a lot of them and I was focused on the team building and you know trying to make sure that there was some kind of cultural safety for all the staff in the office, so I thought we were travelling along fine until SNAICC hit us with the stick, and it made me feel really sad at first, because I thought, 'It's not as great as I thought it was,' but it was good because we did all have to sit back and take responsibility for our part in that and acknowledge that we had let things lapse, we were so focused on making sure we were delivering a service that we'd forgotten about some of the other really really important things that we need to do, yeah.
MR CURRIE: So Stewart, can you hear me okay?
MR MUIR: Yep.
YADENI TAGO: There was no stick, Michael.
MR CURRIE: That's all right, I just wanted to say that during the course of the two days, no service providers were harmed. But look - - -
YADENI TAGO: (laugh response).
MR CURRIE: Just a few things to sort of emphasise what the guys have been saying, and straight up I think the challenge for governments and policy setters is to think about if we're genuine in addressing disadvantage of our peoples, what's the policy setting conducive to tender and procurement that encourages genuine partnerships between traditionally large mainstream organisations who have had a large footprint in this space and balancing that with the notion of self‑determination. But beyond that, is it's not just primarily about self-determination, we know that the evidence tells us that Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander people are more likely and are inclined through the numbers, is telling us is that they would prefer to engage with community controlled services, community controlled approaches. They're more likely to access those types of services. So the challenges really are, moving forward for the policy centres, is about thinking about how can they make sure that they're encouraging partnerships approaches between mainstream and non-Indigenous organisation that increases innovation and service delivery and service design. But the other thing is is I just want to say that you know upon reflection of what the team have been talking about is that the genuine partnerships approach is evidence-based resource that talks about that evidence-based appropriate is to genuine partnership with Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander peoples. So what the guys have been describing is the importance of good governance structure. The importance of governance structure not in just a traditional resource sense and program sense, but what's your governance structure for culture? What's your cultural governance structure look like? And if you're working in these communities, what's your relationship to the children and families in those communities? What's your contribution? What's your relationship with the elders within those communities? And so one of the things that I think really is a standout for the - in Kurbingui Mercy, is that that commitment from CEO to CEO relationships building, and the material creating change through partnership does encourage the participants to be really clear about what their primary objectives are, what their core objectives are and beyond just the everyday service design, because you know resources are shared and these guys, you know, they share the photocopier, right down to the photocopying, that's our, that's how integrated they were in their response, and but yeah, so a few things, that governance, that model of governance and keeping that one eye on that governance and that being supported by a memorandum of understanding so that when things do go pear shaped, and they inevitably do because of the work that we do, and that there is a plan there that is designed by the partners to make sure that the work that they'd been contributing to the last five years isn't just lost through to you know other priorities or neglect.
YADENI TAGO: Stewart, I wanted to add to mine that I guess what I did learn very quickly was without the support of the elders in the local community, we were not going to get engagement or outcomes, you know they're absolutely pivotal to the success of the program, and the other big learning which will be of interest to people out there thinking of partnering is how do you educate the funding bodies to understand that this is a real partnership. It's not led by mercy, which was I think a bit of the presumption in the beginning. We do have two separate contracts but they really struggle with trying to understand that it is truly an equal partnership, yeah.
MR MUIR: Thank you.
YADENI TAGO: Actually have to work very hard in terms of how they communicate with us, so Martin, Kym and I have refused to have any conversations without each other, that's how direct we have to be, and when we originally put in the original submissions, we were told that's not how we should be applying and we just continued to put pressure on them until they accepted something different. They wanted a lead - a traditional lead agency and then somebody else, and we said, 'No we want to make our own funds,' and then one of the - the director at the time, believed in the partnership that we wanted to do and basically just went, 'Yeah let's give this a shot.'
MR MUIR: I think that's a really useful piece of advice actually, but probably for a lot of our listeners who are also struggling with funding bodies and how you work the partnership into that. I think now is a good time maybe that we've heard a little bit about the partnership and Michael also told us a little bit about how that works with the SNAICC principles. I think now it's a good time to bring in some audience questions, and bring them in to the conversation. And I know a question that's come up from our audience and something you've touched on quite a bit already is how do you create a meaningful partnership when no one has time? When everyone's so busy on service delivery and working beyond capacity and there's so much that needs to be done. How do you put that work into the partnership?
YADENI TAGO: I mean I think - oh go, you go.
YADENI TAGO: I was just going to say, it really comes back to relationship doesn't it. So if you ask yourself how do you have a relationship with anyone if you're not able to find the time to invest in that, and I think that's absolutely integral to any relationship in any partnership. So unfortunately you can't have one without the other.
YADENI TAGO: No no, I was just going to say pretty much exactly what Martin was saying. The stuff that I wrote down here, it was about, that's your biggest key investment is time, having that time to go and talk to people. Like you know, like Glenda said, there was a number of organis - I think it was, many organisations that we spoke with in the lead up to this including Mercy, and I mean that's how invested we were into making sure that we were putting in a good submission for it, we had the right partner, we had the right organisation on board to make this as successful as possible, so I get that people are time-poor or you know work gets in the way but without that investment I don't think the partnerships are going to be as strong, it won't last, it won't have the relationships you know that you really need to be able to make them work.
YADENI TAGO: And for me, I'm always tired. I've been tired since…(laughter) My energy comes from the outcomes of the effort that's made, and also my brief as the CEO is I'm - my brief comes from the community. So it was the idea that we just sat unpacking with community members and the elders about a vision that can be really different and with that other, with the other manager who also would be part of the community, and it was just something that we came up with, and went, 'We'll give it a shot.' And if somebody else is passionate we can do this, let's do it, and every time we have a success that just reenergises you to want to keep going more and more. And it's not just a success for us as individuals, it's success for our community. The more we see our Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander families accessing service, the more we know that we're intervening before the situation becomes you know a crisis where they're jutting up against the Child Protection System closer, then that's what we're there for, and looking at ways that we can make a difference and managing up to the department and what else can we do for the greater community together, you know. That's what we're there for, to make a difference.
YADENI TAGO: And I think for those none Indigenous organisations out there listening to this webinar, I think it's really important that time, making time is critical but also deep listening is critical. It can't be tokenistic. You're coming to the table to really listen and learn. That is it.
MR CURRIE: Can I say, Stewart, if I mean if you don't have - for those organisations, if you don't have the time then you don't have the time for genuine partnership right, so what the - what the - what genuine partnerships talks about is being really clear about your core objectives, your process objectives, your impact objectives and your outcome objectives. Now that, in being really clear about that right, and those things take time and those things require prioritisation, what you'll see is that your outcome objectives and your impact objectives will - you'll see outcomes. And so what it's saying is, what the tool is saying is is that you're working smarter not harder, and that the busyness of the partnership can be distracting. So you know everybody's focused on service delivery, service design, but if you don't pay attention to the relationships and your objectives within that and have that document supported by a governance structure then you will feel like you know you're on a treadmill. But it does, genuine partnerships does take time. There are some tools in there, in the tool kit that guides partnerships around focusing on what's important. And you'll see, and we know this from even our - the experience of my organisation, that you see that you will see outcomes. Increased uptake in services and you'll see outcomes for children and families and the clients that you're focused on.
YADENI TAGO: Yep. Yep.
MR MUIR: Thanks Michael, I suppose even a question that's - we have a few questions about this coming in and we had some come in before the webinar, particularly from non-Indigenous organisations who don't really know where to start. We'd been talking a lot about the, I guess the maintenance side of things, and I know from the SNAICC, the work that SNAICC has done, that's really important because they often start with good intentions and it's like keeping it going. I think it had a really good - some really good discussion of that today, but we've got a lot of questions from people wondering well how do they start? How do you get the partnership going and how does a non-Indigenous, how should a non-Indigenous organisation approach an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation for partnership?
YADENI TAGO: Well first of all I'd say respectfully, very respectfully. And I think time and it's the relationship, it's building the relationship and staying committed, like staying in. But I'm keen to hear.
YADENI TAGO: Well I think it's about building a relationship just based on wanting to build the relationship rather than, 'Oh it's a funding opportunity. I'm going to go and knock on someone's door, build a relationship with them and see if there's any interest.' I think, you know, wherever you were, whoever's in your local community, you should be connecting with them in some way and it can be as simple as having an afternoon tea and inviting services over or ringing and saying, 'I'm in the area, can I pop in?' It can be, I know people are busy so it's probably better to make appointments but it can be informal, but don't go, don't go approaching Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community‑controlled organisation because you want something. Go with a genuine desire to build a relationship.
YADENI TAGO: Can I just add there, you know what I mean? Like obviously we've done a lot of work with this over many years now and we've had a lot of, obviously, mainstream organisations approach Kurbingui, that some very well and some haven't. When going back to that factor that Michael talked about before with self‑determination and you know if people are really strongly considering that then it's looking at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that they've partnered with, being the lead on these processes. Obviously, the whole idea is moving towards being able to fund Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander organisations wholly and solely to be able to do this. There's still some notion out there that there needs to be a partnership with say a bigger or a mainstream organisation to be able to do that. When we've got, you know, statistics and it's happening very very well. But in the meantime while that happens, because it sort of goes to one of the other questions that I'd read in some of the other pre-reading around you know how do you approach or you know mention the Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander organisation should be the lead. Easy, come in and say, 'Hey we'd like you to be the lead on this. What work with you, how is it that we're able to partner, and let's set it up so everything's down the middle and we go from there. But that fear's obviously still there as I mentioned before.
MS JONE-TERARE: And also don't try to incorporate the program within your main stream portfolios. The success of all partnerships that I've been involved in here and in past professions has meant that it's sat aside and it had its own support network is recognised as being unique and as soon as the recurring funding was coming, that's when I've seen partnerships fail because they then try and plug it in to their mainstream structure, and it's not culturally safe, it doesn't work, and it's not respectful so if you leap on its side and on the side like Mercy has, it still sits in a structure but it doesn't sit under all the other family and child connects. It sits over here as Yadeni Tago and it's respected, and the integrity of the partnership is respected. But I also think that there is the cultural bias that sometimes decreased, it's not good or it's not good enough. So there's the view that a standard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in service delivery is quite low in comparison to the non‑Indigenous professional practitioners as well. And so you've got to work really hard. You've got to work really hard, to have a look at and value the differences and the, the expertise in both camps because of the disadvantage for Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander people, a mob doesn't have the same - hasn't had the same opportunities for educational qualifications and we work really hard here at Kurbingui to help them build through - help our community and ourselves get those get those quals so valuing the difference between..
MR MUIR: Sorry Glenda, I'm going to have to cut you off there a minute because we're just about to run out of time. So, I know there are some - we get cut off very abruptly, so I know there's some questions we couldn't get to today, so after this recording we're going to record some more answers to people's questions and add this content to the recording. Everybody we're just here to answer a few more of your questions, because you know we didn't get time to get through all of them in the Webinar. Unfortunately Michael couldn't join us for this part of the webinar but we're very lucky to have the Yadeni Tago crew with us to answer a few more of your questions. So we've had a question come in where someone was asking about being inclusive of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, and I guess the question is whether they should be setting up separate partnerships or is there a different way of doing, working in this way, and is it helpful to see them as separate communities or organisations?
YADENI TAGO: Yep, so Stewart, I'll grab that one. So when I hear that one there, obviously when looking at say a separate Aboriginal organisation or a Torres Strait Islander organisation or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation, I think a lot of it comes down to location. Like we talk about, we're based in the Brisbane area so there is a big population of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community here, hence that's why Kurbingui is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisation. But if you were to say, refer to someone like the Torres Straits where, you know on the islands where there were predominantly Torres Strait Island people, a lot of those organisations would consider themselves wholly and in some cases just a Torres Strait Islander organisation. So I guess location, depending on where you're working or looking to set up your partnership for your potential program, I think that's where that difference of that process comes in to play there.
YADENI TAGO: And then I heard a little bit different which is interesting, in terms of the difference in service delivery or how we - how we approach our service delivery. And that is regardless of whether it's Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander we integrate, we recognise the diversity within the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander community and we integrate all of those protocols and practices through our therapeutic response in our service delivery and because we operate from a strength base where our families are the experts it's their stories that guide us with their protocols, practices and so on and so forth. So that's what we listen to and that's what we act on.
MR MUIR: Thank you. We've also had a question here that touches on something that came up in the webinar around staff and their feelings of cultural safety and I think Glenda, you mentioned that in terms of maybe the focus on service delivery sometimes being at the expense of cultural safety of staff. I wonder if you could say a little bit more about that and what you understood the staff was saying.
MS JONE-TERARE: So they felt that because it was so focused on service delivery they weren't getting that nourishment that you would normally get. They weren't – that there wasn't the involvement with the broader community or the broader Kurbingui community and so they felt quite isolated. So that didn't take away from their team relationships. They really love working with their team mates. They have a great time and they love their line managers and everything but from a cultural perspective they really missed that mateship. They really missed the connection with the Elders and they really missed that cultural nourishment, as a couple of them put it.
MR MUIR: Yeah.
MS JONE-TERARE: You know, where they could just sit and yarn and talk about how they were feeling and what was going on. And that's – sometimes as we found where we're busy doing something else we don't take the time to come back and have those yarns, do the, you know, I guess, non-indigenous mainstream language would be debriefing and just peer supervision but for the cultural way it's just having that yarn and sitting down and involving the Elders and just being able to talk about how they were feeling and what they're seeing and then also recognising the triggers.
So recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders workers, also have experienced intergenerational trauma, also have their own triggers. We have external professional supervision and internal professional supervision as well as case reviews. We have training. We do a whole load of self‑care work. Sometimes it's just to be there for one another and talk about what that triggered for them and yarn with another one that, another – some other members in the community that can relate to that.
YADENI TAGO: Can I just add quickly, one of the things about cultural safety, it's important to note too that non-indigenous Mercy staff need to be culturally safe within the process as well.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
YADENI TAGO: It's not all one way traffic, you know what I mean and cultural safety comes at a number of levels. It's not something that, okay, I can be culturally safe and then that's it, you know what I mean? If I'm in a situation where I'm working with say the police and there's an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person involved, by cultural safety's heightened because I myself with all of those traumas and things that Glenda talks about is brought with me when interacting and trying to help assist that client. Whereas if I'm sitting in an office or in this space here talking about my culture, my cultural safety levels are right down. So there's no – you know what I mean and I'm not sure - - -
MR MUIR: Yeah.
YADENI TAGO: Obviously I can't speak for the non-indigenous panel sitting here but they would have that too. Julie is a manager who manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff as well as non-indigenous staff. So there's many levels to cultural safety and it goes both ways. I just wanted to add that 'cause it's very important.
YADENI TAGO: Really important and I think it's a challenge for non-indigenous organisations - - -
YADENI TAGO: You can get – we're talking about both.
YADENI TAGO: - - - to really consider that particularly when they might only have a handful of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in their services and how do you ensure that nurturing and those kind of connections to country and communities in which they're operating, how do you ensure that that can occur.
YADENI TAGO: I mean we're lucky because we actually sit, our service sits within Kurbingui's site so staff do have access to people but yeah, it is about cultural safety both ways and I guess, for some of the non-indigenous workers was that fear about saying or asking or doing the wrong thing and I think what we did in the end was we all acknowledged that stuff and we did set up a yarning circle so that we could unpack it for everybody and it made a big difference.
YADENI TAGO: I think that's a really important point that that's also at all levels. So even, you know, conversations with Glenda over the years and with Kevin like there are, at times, things that you're second guessing whether you should be asking that, whether you have the right to ask it but I think embracing that with a sense of genuine curiosity and when we've had the time together and people understand your practice framework but also who you are as a person and there's also that opportunity for forgiveness that, you know, if I do ask something I know that I count on Glenda or Kevin or any of our, you know, partner staff to say, well it's probably not a question you should be asking or maybe look at it from this perspective but again you've got to nurture that over time.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah, it is about listening and - - -
YADENI TAGO: Deep listening.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah, listening and trusting.
YADENI TAGO: And trust, yeah.
YADENI TAGO: It's about building relationships so you know, that everyone feels safe enough to just ask the question and know that you'll get the answer and you will be told, you will be told if you're being culturally inappropriate but that's how we learn by mistakes.
YADENI TAGO: The other thing - - -
YADENI TAGO: Actually - - -
YADENI TAGO: The other thing I'd like to probably add, a conversation Glenda and I were having just last week is about – and Glenda, I'm keen to hear your thoughts on this too, if I represent it right but you know, on the topic of qualifications of staff and often the requirements, you know, handed down in our contracts around qualifications, really getting a team to embrace that experience and qualifications go far beyond what's on a piece of paper and respecting the richness of those experiences and qualifications because if you don't get a good grip on that and if there's a values misalignment at higher levels in both organisations that can really be something that becomes problematic and can snowball for staff. So everyone comes to the table with her or his experiences that are recognised, that are valued and we learn together. Now saying that's one thing and living it, really living it's another but it's integral really to embrace the individuality and strengths that we all come with.
MR MUIR: Thank you. That's really helpful advice.
MR MUIR: So another question we've had and again this touches a little bit on some of what you've spoken about today, is how do you evaluate the quality of a partnership and how do you sort of monitor how it's going and how it's working?
YADENI TAGO: I think one thing that's been helpful over the last few months is going through with SNAICC and really doing the genuine partnership work and it is work. There's lots of homework that comes from that but it's almost upholding – in some respects it's probably not too dissimilar to holding a bit of a mirror up against yourself and the partnership and asking whether you've kind of come good on what you've intended and set out to do and the activities, for want of the right word, within the partnership framework really emphasise spending time on that and what your charter of commitments is and you know, what is your project plan and how are you going to share your cultural and other resources and that on an introspection allows you again to evaluate where you set out, where you've come to and you know, deviation is likely to happen so having a bit of a look at the map and getting a bit of a pulse on where you should be is a good opportunity.
So I think at a partnership level it's a really, really great resource and guide. I think my learning is that it's not also a once off. It's something that I think Michael touched on earlier, the governance structure's really, really key to get that right and to evaluate whether that's working and what else might be needed and then obviously the programmatic level you've got different – you know, in some respects different ways of evaluating whether you're meeting the outcomes and outlets and objectives of the program itself.
YADENI TAGO: There's also an audit tool. So before we did the training we filled in an audit tool which give us a score. We'll fill it in again and then we plan on doing that audit again - - -
YADENI TAGO: Regularly.
YADENI TAGO: - - - in six to 12 months again. It's just that might help us keep a check on where we're at and remind us what we need to be doing.
MR MUIR: Thank you.
MR MAUND: It was quite good, you know. Obviously the first process went over two days, when we had the two days. Had the guys come from Melbourne and obviously Michael's local here so he was able to facilitate that. Going through the manual that you obviously saw there and then, like Martin said, there was the homework that needed to be done between then and the next visit from those guys. So we were able to put together a few meetings, obviously our normal meetings that we have but some other specific partnership workshops with our external, you know, scribe or chair, the person who mediates our meeting and then we were able to return to it again and it was only one day this next one, wasn't it?
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
YADENI TAGO: I believe half.
MR MAUND: Yeah, half a day that we had, you know, the lovely team from SNAICC return and spend some time with us. So you know again, you people listening out there now and the other question that we had a little bit earlier about time, there's two and a half days and it's not as if – I can't speak for everybody but you can't really afford to lose two and a half days when you work in the community but that's what you have to do if you wanna make sure that you value the partnership and - - -
MR GRELLER: For community.
MR MAUND: Yeah, that's exactly right. Our end goal is for community as Martin just said but you have to invest, an investment of time in that relationship and in that partnership is key.
YADENI TAGO: And what about the outcomes from it though?
MR MAUND: Oh yeah, they're fantastic.
YADENI TAGO: We've leapt ahead in leaps and bounds, hey and I don't – I think we got so tired and before the review, you know, the review did all of that and yet we all went back to the corner and licked our wounds and went we're shit at doing this.
MR MAUND: We felt like that.
YADENI TAGO: Then afterwards we went actually we have achieved so much.
YADENI TAGO: M'hmm.
YADENI TAGO: Then we identified what we wanted to do further. We have just ran and put those things in place and created so many changes and the energy has just been really positive and endless since that review.
MR MAUND: And we're sitting on, you know, something like this.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
MR MAUND: Where people want to hear about – in the meetings just to be able to get on top of one - - -
YADENI TAGO: So I think it was the best investment of two and a half days.
MR MAUND: Most definitely.
YADENI TAGO: And it is about being willing to really reflect and learn but also celebrate the – like to actually look and say, wow, look how far this partnership's actually gone. So it's also about stopping and taking time to celebrate those wins as well.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah. Absolutely.
YADENI TAGO: Yeah.
MR MUIR: Thank you. That's really helpful and I think you've really made it clear, I suppose, the importance of investing that time as part of this process and I think that's really important and comes through very clearly. Just to remind our listeners too, the importance of the SNAICC resources that you're talking about. So there are a wealth of resources associated with this project that SNAICC's been undertaking. So genuine partnerships and an audit tool. So you can find those through the links on the CFCA website and also on the SNAICC website. So thanks very much for taking the time to answer a few questions today.
YADENI TAGO: Thank you.
YADENI TAGO: Thank you.
YADENI TAGO: Thank you very much. Bye.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION - PLEASE READ
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The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.
This webinar was held on Wednesday, 16 June 2021. Please post your questions and comments below.
Cross-cultural partnerships are important for developing safe and effective services for families. However, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers have had negative experiences of relationships that were incorrectly labelled as partnerships.
This webinar discussed strategies for creating genuine partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations to support families. Specifically, it:
Provided an overview of the SNAICC partnership principles
Shared strategies for developing cultural competence and safety in service delivery
Provided a case study example of a partnership between a non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service.
This webinar is relevant to professionals working in, or interested in partnering with, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to produce better outcomes for children, families and communities.
This webinar is presented in collaboration with SNAICC – National Voice for our Children
Questions answered during presenter Q&A
To view the presenter Q&A, go to 45:50 in the recording
- How do you create a meaningful partnership when you don't have any time?
- Where can you start in creating a meaningful partnership?
- Is it helpful to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as distinct communities?
- Can a focus on service delivery affect cultural safety within a partnership?
- How can you evaluate the quality of a partnership?
- Creating Change through Partnerships
This resource, developed by SNAICC, provides guidance for developing partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations in child and family services.
- Measuring progress towards genuine partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations
This CFCA short article outlines the findings from SNAICC’s audit on organisations’ progress towards achieving genuine and respectful partnerships.
- Yadeni Tago
This website provides information about theYadeni Tago partnership between Kurbingui Youth and Family Development and Mercy Community.
Featured image: © GettyImages/SolStock