Two Ways Together - NSW Aboriginal Affairs Plan
The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today released his report on the implementation of the Two Ways Together Plan.
Many Aboriginal people in NSW are disadvantaged in comparison with the rest of the population on a wide range of measures in health, education, employment and justice. When the Two Ways Together Plan was developed in 2003 this disadvantage was clear. This Plan was to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal people and to develop committed partnerships between Aboriginal people of NSW and Government.
The Two Ways Together Plan has raised public awareness of the need to address Aboriginal disadvantage. It has also provided an opportunity for Government agencies to work together at a regional level to deliver better services. In some areas there are positive developments. The number of Aboriginal students enrolled in TAFE certificate courses has grown, as has the percentage of Aboriginal students in TAFE.
However Mr Achterstraat said, “Despite the best of intentions, to date the Plan has not delivered the improvement in overall outcomes for Aboriginal people that were intended.”
“The disadvantage still experienced by some of the estimated 160,000 Aboriginal people in NSW is substantial. For example, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people is at least three times higher than the rate for all NSW residents, and hospital admissions for diabetes are also around three times higher,” he added.
NSW spends approximately $240 million annually on specific services for Aboriginal people. The Plan aimed to ensure that best value was obtained from this money and that agencies were held responsible for results and for achieving specific outcomes for Aboriginal people. But the Auditor-General found accountability was unclear.
“I am recommending that agencies be more publicly accountable. If agencies are given money, they must be able to show at the end of the year how they spent it and how it has improved the wellbeing of Aboriginal people,” Mr Achterstraat said.
“Agencies have also struggled to establish, in a practical sense, how Government should partner with Aboriginal people. This has resulted in poor levels of engagement between agencies and Aboriginal people locally,” added Mr Achterstraat.
The local community is best placed to understand its own needs and be responsible for its own future. In this respect, the Two Ways Together Partnership Community Program is a promising development. The community governance bodies established under this program can bridge the gap between people who need services and those who deliver the services.
“I recommend that the community governance bodies be given extra support. I believe there is a need to appoint an independent advisor to be a strong voice on issues that are fundamental to improving the lives of Aboriginal people,” stated Mr Achterstraat.
“We know that addressing entrenched disadvantage takes time. A foundation has been established by Two Ways Together. It is important that we don’t lose the gains that have been made by going back to the drawing board. Now it is time to deliver on the promises,” said Mr Achterstraat.
Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220/0403 073 664 or email firstname.lastname@example.org