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What is Remote Service Delivery?

 

In December 2007, all Australian Governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) made a commitment to ‘Close the Gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage

COAG committed to achieving six 'Closing the Gap'  targets covering health, housing and education in recognition that life outcomes for Indigenous Australians are well below those of non-Indigenous Australians. To achieve the targets, COAG identified seven areas or ‘building blocks’ where coordinated action is required to reduce the current levels of disadvantage:

• early childhood
• schooling
• health
• healthy homes
• safe communities
• economic participation
• governance and leadership

National Indigenous Reform Agreement

In 2008, COAG signed the National Indigenous Reform Agreement to frame the task of Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage. The National Indigenous Reform Agreement sets out the objectives, outcomes, outputs, performance indicators and performance benchmarks agreed by COAG across all seven building blocks.

As part of ongoing reforms to overcome Indigenous disadvantage COAG agreed a number of Indigenous specific National Partnership Agreements under the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, including one on Remote Indigenous Service Delivery.

National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery

The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery was signed by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory in January 2009.

The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery is a five year agreement between the governments that puts into place a new approach for delivering services to Indigenous Australians living in remote Australia. The new model requires agencies to work closely with Indigenous Australians to determine what services are needed and how services will be provided.

New ways of working

The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery is a fundamental change in the manner in which governments engage and do business with Indigenous Communities:

• it is based on high level and long term commitments through formalised partnerships across levels of government;

• it is a place-based approach with a Single Government Interface for each community;

• it requires the development of Local Implementation Plans that allow for holistic and integrated approaches to address the multiple challenges facing communities;

• it recognises that enhanced engagement and ownership by communities in developing the agenda of change is essential; and

• it recognises the need to support community capacity development.

The approach is underpinned by three core areas that capture the intent of the Remote Service Delivery approach:

Improved engagement

The Remote Service Delivery partnership seeks to improve engagement in two areas. Firstly, it facilitates improved coordination and collaboration between and across levels of government. Specific governance arrangements have been established to improve communication and collaboration between governments and to ensure a more coordinated approach to delivery of services. Regional Operations Centres have been established which co-locate officers from different governments and agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to service delivery. Boards of Management (or similar 1) are a mechanism by which senior public servants in each jurisdiction can collaborate to provide accountability and oversight in addressing systemic service delivery issues.

Secondly, the Remote Service Delivery partnership seeks to improve engagement between government and communities. The Single Government Interface comprises regional offices (Regional Operations Centres) which coordinate government activity in the communities and a government presence in each community through Government Business Managers and Indigenous Engagement Officers (or similar 2) representing both the Australian and State or Territory governments. Government Business Managers and Indigenous Engagement Officers have a broad range of responsibilities, including representing both the Australian and State and Territory Governments and acting as a conduit for information flows between governments and each community. The Single Government Interface is based on governments developing partnerships with Indigenous communities, including joint decision making about what will be done and how. It is further underpinned by a focus on translation services and capacity building to ensure that communities are supported in their engagement with government. The Remote Service Delivery partnership also has a key focus on building the capacity of government workers to ensure that they have the skills to best support communities and engage effectively in a culturally informed manner.


[1]Note that the governance arrangements are called Boards of Management in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. In New South Wales it is called the State Management Committee, and in Western Australia the State Operations Committee.

[2]Note that Government Business Managers are called Government Engagement and Coordination Officers in the Gulf communities in Queensland, Government Coordination Officers in the Cape communities in Queensland, Remote Service Delivery Coordinators in New South Wales and Local Area Coordinators in Western Australia. Indigenous Engagement Officers are called Anangu Engagement Officers in South Australia.

Better Service Systems

The Remote Service Delivery partnership focuses on ensuring better service systems for Indigenous communities, with the aim to raise the standard and range of services delivered to indigenous families to be broadly consistent with those provided to other Australians in similar sized and located communities with similar levels of need.

The central mechanism for coordinating commitments and actions in the 29 priority communities are Local Implementation Plans. Local Implementation Plans are publicly available documents which reflect service delivery priorities agreed between community groups and governments, as well as non-government and private sector organisations, consistent with the COAG targets.

The Local Implementation Planning process combined with the place based Single Government Interface and increased government investment in Remote Service Delivery communities will provide an environment where communities can work with government to determine the services that they need most and to ensure that they are delivered in a manner that is appropriate.

Importantly, the Remote Service Delivery partnership also requires identified priorities to include targets, actions and associated milestones and timelines. Publicly available joint annual reports on progress will be made by governments against these performance indicators. The first annual report is due in September 2011.

Stronger communities

The Remote Service Delivery partnership has a fundamental objective of creating stronger communities in each of the 29 locations. Through the actions outlined in the Remote Service Delivery partnership there is a shared drive to promote and foster personal responsibility and positive social norms, improve governance and community leadership, as well as increase social and economic participation.

The Remote Service Delivery partnership has a clear focus on working with and supporting communities to develop their capacity through governance building and participatory planning activities. Ensuring that communities are a critical and active part of the Remote Service Delivery process facilitates skills transfers, capacity building and the empowerment of community members. Actively engaging communities and building on their strengths and assets will create an environment for developing stronger communities. The National Partnership has a key focus on ensuring that any action in a community can be harnessed for the social and economic development of the community.
 

The Service Delivery Principles for programs and services for Indigenous Australians are a further key element of the Remote Service Delivery approach (see coag.gov.au). The principles set out the expectations of governments for the approach of its officers to engagement, sustainability, access, effective coordination and accountability. They also clearly state that programs and services should contribute to Closing the Gap while being appropriate to local community needs.

The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services

One of the key differences in this new approach is that the Australian Government recognised the need for independent oversight and facilitation of such significant reforms. The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services has the authority to work across agencies to cut through red tape and bureaucratic blockages and to help ensure services are delivered effectively in the 29 communities. The Coordinator General is required to formally report twice a year on progress, and ensure that all government agencies are held accountable for their implementation responsibilities.

Complementary positions have been established in all the relevant States and the Northern Territory. While they are not statutory officers, they perform similar functions to the Australian Government’s Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services at the jurisdictional level. These functions include coordinating across State/Territory agencies, cutting through bureaucratic blockages and red tape, and making sure State/Territory services are delivered effectively.

The Coordinators General meet every two months to discuss strategic national issues relating to Remote Service Delivery. The agendas are developed collaboratively with each state and the territory. Workshops are also conducted on key issues. The Coordinators General are the key contact point for the Australian Government’s Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services. 

Bilateral Implementation Plans

To guide their joint work, the Australian and State/Territory governments have developed Bilateral Implementation Plans. These vary across jurisdictions, but generally set out the ways that the governments will work together and with the priority communities, including developing new ways for government services meet the needs of remote communities.

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