DIDGE: Enabling Aboriginal achievement and access

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

The practice of collaboration between an Aboriginal organisation and a "mainstream" service provider shows how enagement in culturally appropriate activies can be enhanced by providing relevant and timely support in delivering effective and culturally appropriate activities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Delivered by

A collaborative program delivered by Mingaletta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation: A local Aboriginal-managed organisation, and Interrelate Family Centres (IFC): A Community-based, multi-site, not-for-profit organisation.

The information for this Promising Practice Proflie was provided by the Area Manager, Central Coast at Interrelate Family Centres.

Service type

DIDGE is a youth program focused on learning and performing the didgeridoo which targets teenage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys.

The overarching aim of DIDGE is to divert Aboriginal boys in the Woy Woy region from paths that would lead them to engaging in risky and criminal behaviour. The program provides cultural and other mentoring and support to the boys and, by extension, their families. It aims to instil in the boys a stronger respect for, and connection to, their culture through playing the didgeridoo and learning and performing traditional stories and dances.


DIDGE works with Young Aboriginal boys, their families and the community in the Woy Woy region of the Central Coast of NSW.


The approach of the DIDGE program reflects a way of working with, and in, Aboriginal communities to support their goals to improve to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and families. The program is delivered collaboratively through Interrelate Family Centre (IFC), Mingaletta and the Interrelate Young Boys’ Didgeridoo and Cultural Group. IFC’s involvement with DIDGE arose out of conversations between Mingaletta and the Central Coast Area Manager for IFC. Both parties agreed that regardless of their popularity or success, such programs can be difficult to sustain in the long-term and can benefit from a supportive, enabling “friend” who can help get things done, support and facilitate problem solving, and assist with navigating and negotiating with agencies and institutions such as local councils, service providers, and other relevant organisations, including government.

The IFC Area Manager's role is to facilitate the program and support its sustainability in the lives of DIDGE's participating children and their families, and to build relationships with the community that will help to overcome barriers to accessing services. In this sense, the Area Manager is an enabler who steps in and out of the program as needed to help maintain the momentum of the program. For example, he may help with the arrangements for a family day by securing the provision of a marquee by a local business, procuring bread for a sausage sizzle, or in writing funding submissions. There are no set meeting times or formal procedures, and the role is one where the boundaries between professional and personal can become blurred.

The success of the relationship and the flow-on effects for DIDGE rest on the willingness of the IFC Area Manager to engage with Mingaletta on their terms, which involves attending sessions and performances, getting to know members of the group and building trust with group and community members. The program's success also rests on the relationship and trust that has developed between the Area Manager and Mingaletta, and the growing recognition of IFC in the local community as being a ‘good place’, with ‘good people’ who are approachable and understanding of Aboriginal community ways and needs.

Intended outcomes of DIDGE for the boys:

  • have and associate with positive role models and mentors in their community, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal;
  • develop self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence, respect for their culture and community, a sense of belonging to and connection with their culture;
  • learn skills relating to playing the didgeridoo and knowledge of their culture;
  • facilitate their own and their families’ awareness of and access to services and points of assistance in the community;
  • form friendships and improve relationships with peers;
  • build on/improve relationships with parents;
  • build skills in leadership and teamwork; and,
  • reduce or avoid involvement in the criminal justice system.

For the families: through their child’s participation, their own engagement with DIDGE, and contact with non-Aboriginal workers and agencies, it is hoped that families will:

  • have less family conflict, and warmer parent-child relationships;
  • become more involved in their community and develop wider social & support networks;
  • learn more about their culture, traditional dances & stories;
  • develop/improve trust in non-Aboriginal workers & agencies, leading to breaking down of perceived barriers to accessing services and increased likelihood of seeking help when needed.

No specific funding is allocated to this work, however when the need for financial support arises, for example to hire a bus to take the boys to a performance venue, IFC contributes and/or helps to source funding from other agencies and businesses. The funds required are typically small.

DIDGE relies extensively on volunteer support but IFC indirectly funds the program through the Area Manager’s involvement, and covers some of the costs of running the group and specific events. IFC has also committed funds to support the expansion of the program by engaging a Project Officer to document the project and seek feedback from stakeholders, and a filmmaker to record the group.

New Horizons supports the program via time release for its Aboriginal Support Worker to teach the didgeridoo, and through financial assistance for the boys’ camp. Other agencies such as the Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill (ARAFMI) have provided support such as covering transport costs for the boys’ performances.


MOST promising aspect

The collaboration between Mingaletta and ICF has facilitated greater engagement by Aboriginal teenage boys in activities such as learning and performing the digeridoo which has lead to their diversion away from engaging in risky and criminal behaviour. The program gives the boys a stronger respect for, and connection to, their culture through playing the didgeridoo and learning and performing traditional stories and dances.

Evidence base and opportunities

Adopting a collaborative approach between Mingaletta, an Aboriginal community organisation, and Interellate Family Centres (IFC), a "mainstream" service provider, is the focus of this promising practice. Mingaletta has drawn from the wide range of IFC resources to help facilitate the delivery of the DIDGE program to Aboriginal boys which has provided the program with greater capacity and sustainability in the longer-term.

The dedication and committment of IFC's Area Manager has been instrumental in facilitating the success of the DIDGE program. A highlight of this role has been the ability to respond to Mingaletta's program requirements when they are required, while allowing the community and program planners to decide how the program should be delivered on their own terms. This flexible and culturally appropriate approach has lead to a great deal of trust in IFC's Area Manager from community members and Mingalett's facilitators. Such trust is known to be a key ingredient in a program's effectiveness to deliver outcomes.

Furthermore, while the IFC Area Manager's involvement has given the Mingaletta greater capacity to make positive changes in participants' lives theough the DIDGE program, IFC have increased the capacity of these participants and their families to have access to IFC services. This has enabled a wider service support base to respond to the needs of Aboriginal families living in the Woy Woy region.

There are opportunities for other "grassroots" Aboriginal services to adopt this model of collaboration in other local Aboriginal communites as part of an integrated service approach. Provided the mainstream organisations allow the local communities to deliver their programs on their own terms, this arrangment shows much promise in enabling long-term outcomes for Aboriginal communities.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Through ongoing contact between the Mingaletta worker and the IFC Area Manager, the IFC's role evolved gradually over time. IFC resources are now provided when required and when ideas are generated and IFC supports Mingaletta to put those ideas into practice. The focus of this arrangement is to determine the most effective ways to provide support for young Aboriginal boys to meet their specifc needs with the broader aim to enable and empower the community to set the agenda at their own pace. The practice is culturally appropriate as it operates within an Aboriginal framework in terms of timeframes, the way that resources are sought and provided, how DIDGE participants can be effectively engaged and how interactions with Aboriginal people are undertaken.

Cultural practices and materials

Mingaletta delivers the DIDGE program using culturally appropriate practices such as telling stories, traditional dancing and the provision of didgeridoo lessons. Elders and family members are welcome to attend and they are free to contribute to the program as they see fit.


Evaluation status

The practice of the collaboration between IFC and Mingaletta to deliver the DIDGE program has not been formally evaluated. However, IFC committed funds to support the expansion of the program by engaging a Project Officer to document the project and to seek feedback from stakeholders.


Demonstrated outcomes

The intended outcomes of “the practice” are:

  • Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers work effectively to meet objectives for the boys and their families;
  • the practice is sustainable and transferable;
  • ongoing collaborative relationships among services are established;
  • respectful working relationships among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers;
  • the organisations are respected among community members;
  • a broader range of services are available to the community;
  • ongoing development of existing and future practices and programs to meet the needs of Aboriginal children and families;
  • reduction in/removal of the barriers to services perceived by Aboriginal people;
  • greater access and uptake of services by Aboriginal families with subsequent positive outcomes ;
  • cultural awareness transmitted across organisations;
  • increased knowledge of effective ways to engage with Aboriginal communities; and
  • that DIDGE aims are met.

Stakeholder feedback about the DIDGE program reports the following outcomes.

Organisational outcomes:

  • effective ongoing collaboration between Interellate Family Centres and Mingaletta;
  • greater access to Interrelate services for Aboriginal young people and families; and,
  • increased respect for both organisations from the broader community.

Outcomes for Boys:

  • increased confidence, pride, friendships and a greater ‘respect' for others;
  • enhanced skills in didgeridoo, dance, cultural knowledge and leadership;
  • performance experience; and,
  • improved application to school & attendance.

Teachers have also contacted Mingaletta to report on the positive impact the program was having on the young people in school, with improved engagement and attendance, and a sense of cultural pride. The boys have learned to cooperate and to respect each other and the differences among them in terms of skills and abilities. The boys also appear to have developed leadership skills and a sense of responsibility, with some older boys supporting and coaching the younger ones in aspects of didgeridoo playing such as breathing techniques. The number of public performance requests has been surprising, with flow-on effects for the boys’ confidence and self-esteem.

Other evidence

The acceptance by the community of Mingaletta's partnership with the IFC Area Manager was demonstrated by the invitation for the Area Manager to speak at the 2012 National Sorry Day ceremony. Some other comments about the DIDGE program included:

From parents:
“Ever since it’s started, noticed the boys coming out of themselves more - it
does them good.”;
“Didge sound all the time in the house” … “See more and another side of
Aboriginal culture”… “Opened our families eyes up more to our culture”.

From staff and a member of the Mingaletta community:
“It’s brought dads and sons together - we usually see mothers, but not so much
“The feeling at Mingaletta’s really good; they (the boys) are so good”.

From the boys:
“I’ve made some mates”
“Playing the didge with friends”
“Performing - shy at first but now I’m alright".

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