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Background

Aboriginal NGOs have long delivered services in the NT, often using a community development approach with an emphasis on good governance, local involvement and capacity strengthening. The strength of Aboriginal NGOs includes: strong relationships with communities, understanding of community needs, cultural competence, and a permanent presence in Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal organisations have operated and continue to operate in an environment that lacks a secure funding base and the necessary professional technical support needed to strengthen and improve their capacity to deliver sustainable, high quality programs and services. Changing government policy and a lack of ongoing resourcing has undermined the service delivery and community development capacity of Aboriginal NGOs, as well as their capacity to document and evaluate their work. However, overall it is clear that many organisations have legitimacy among their Aboriginal members and with the Government departments that fund them, and that they are delivering positive outcomes in the very challenging NT environment.

In the past, there has been no contractual requirement of third party contractors to enter into formal partnerships with, or develop and strengthen the capacity of Aboriginal organisations. This approach has done little to ensure long-term viability of Aboriginal organisations and their potential to create permanent employment opportunities for people living in remote areas and to deliver culturally appropriate services.

Many mainstream organisations also have had little or no experience of working with Aboriginal people, and often lack sector expertise, yet they have been contracted to provide an array of specialist services (women’s safe houses, financial literacy, early childhood and youth services, for example). Despite the lack of prior relationships, cultural competence, sector expertise and an absence of a permanent presence in Aboriginal communities, it can be said that mainstream organisations have become the preferred providers of government funded services in remote communities, with high costs associated with a ‘fly-in-fly out’ or ‘drive-in-drive-out’ service delivery model.

 

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NGO Forum, Darwin, 26-27 June 2014

A landmark meeting: APO NT NGO Forum, February 2013.

Acknowledging the increase of mainstream providers in service delivery and through the reports of the previous NT Coordinator General and the previous Commonwealth Coordinator General, APO NT held a landmark forum for NGO organisations in February 2013 in Alice Springs. This forum was the first gathering of its kind in the NT and brought together sixty participants from twenty-seven mainstream NGOs and six NT Aboriginal peak organisations. At this forum, APO NT presented a set of draft principles designed to guide how non-Aboriginal organisations can act to support Aboriginal organisations and service delivery capacity and work in partnership, rather than in competition with us. The finalised partnership principles have been signed by a number of mainstream NGOs. The signing of these principles indicates their commitment to supporting and working with Aboriginal organisations.

On 31 October 2013 Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, NTCOSS and ACOSS  launched of the “Principles for developing partnership centred approaches for non-Indigenous NGOs working with Aboriginal Organisations and Communities in the NT”. A copy of this Media Release can be found here.