The Woor-Dungin Model

Willum Warrain visit Jan 2015Woor-Dungin takes a community-development approach to create bridges between Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and philanthropy, building partnerships for change based on strong and trusting relationships and shared learning.

We develop genuine partnerships with a small number of Aboriginal organisations in Victoria, and assist them to engage effectively with philanthropic organisations and pro bono service providers. In turn we assist philanthropic organisations and pro bono service providers to engage with and support Aboriginal communities and issues.

In our own organisation, Woor-Dungin provides work experience, personal counselling, skills development, on-the-job training, access to financial support such as scholarships, professional development and computer training for Aboriginal people, particularly women, as well as a base for Aboriginal offenders to undertake their community correction orders at the Woor-Dungin office.

Woor-Dungin resources our Aboriginal partners to: Woor-Dungin encourages our philanthropic and pro bono partners to:
Understand the language and practices of philanthropy Engage more effectively with Aboriginal organisations and communities
Become familiar with and confident in a business environment Understand and be responsive to the needs of Aboriginal people
Plan and develop strong community projects, and write and submit good grant applications Support capacity building and project development grants
Stay on track with projects and fulfill acquittal obligations Be flexible in their expectations, understanding of variations and realistic with timelines

Four Key Principals guide our work:

  1. Self-determination – Aboriginal organisations will determine their own future.
  1. Community development – We work to empower our Aboriginal partner organisations, providing training, advice, information, introductions and other support as determined by them.
  1. Reconciliation – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people will work together to enable us to realise our shared vision.
  1. Advocacy – Woor-Dungin will tackle structural issues on a systemic level, informed by our relationships and partnerships.

Despite well-documented disadvantage, and a strong desire to support Aboriginal communities, less than 8% of philanthropic funding goes towards Indigenous communities or issues. Woor-Dungin’s purpose is to rectify this situation.

Our model is different from the standard way philanthropy and government deal with Aboriginal people and issues. In effect this means:

  • We have identified the seven biggest problems with the way traditional philanthropy approaches support for Aboriginal organisations.
  • We take time to establish and build relationships and trust, as long as is needed.
  • Our processes are structured around face-to-face conversations, often on country.
  • We don’t determine at the start ‘the problem’ and ‘the solution’. Rather our Aboriginal partner organisations set the agenda and we support them over the long term.
  • We recognise that community issues have overlapping causes and effects, which need to be addressed concurrently. This approach requires flexibility and long-term commitment.
  • We are volunteer based, so don’t incur heavy costs, yet bring a wealth of skills and experience to our partnerships.

Seven biggest problems

  1. The written application process can be confronting and the language used intimidating.
  2. Timelines are often too inflexible to accommodate Aboriginal cultural needs.
  3. Donors and trustees rarely visit Aboriginal communities to meet with Elders face-to-face, or allow their program managers to do a site visit to country, preferring to commission research then listen to a briefing. This is deemed disrespectful by Aboriginal people.
  4. Most philanthropy is outcomes driven: What have we achieved? The important thing to Aboriginal communities is the process: Have we done this the right way?
  5. Funding is often allocated to applications that offer a predetermined outcome, whereas community-driven initiatives often have a life of their own and are stronger for this iterative approach.
  6. Few trusts and foundations are willing to take a long-term view, or work within a framework that does not dictate what the outcomes should look like.
  7. Many donors and trustees are unsure how to engage with Aboriginal groups, or how to ask difficult but important questions without offending. The complexities of the cultural and political sensitivities can seem daunting.