Aboriginal Partnership Program

The Aboriginal Partnership Program is our core program, funded by Australian Communities Foundation and Equity Trustees



The Aboriginal Partnership Program addresses well-documented disadvantage in Aboriginal communities by fostering respectful relationships and effective partnerships between Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) and philanthropy and pro bono service providers.

The program’s objectives are to:

  • Increase the level of philanthropic funding flowing to ACCOs to enable them to better meet community needs
  • Work in partnership with ACCOs to support them in fulfilling their purpose
  • Build a better understanding of respectful relationships between the philanthropic sector and ACCOs
  • Promote and facilitate partnerships with others who can assist Woor-Dungin and our partner ACCOs to achieve identified goals

We partner with a small number of ACCOs over three-year periods. Partner organisations graduate from the program to become alumni partners, or sometimes undertake another three-year program. In collaboration with each partner we produce a workplan based on the needs and priorities identified by members of each partner’s community, and undertake activities towards meeting those needs.

Such activities have included Income Generation and Resources Group sessions; professional development programs such as our Maarni Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program; the Criminal Record Discrimination Project; and on-country visits by staff from Woor-Dungin, other partner organisations and/or philanthropic organisations.

The Aboriginal Partnership Program demonstrates that where respectful relationships exist between Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and philanthropy, the exchange of skills and the deeper mutual understanding that follows will generate a strong return on social investment.


Our partners

In 2017 Woor-Dungin is working with six partner ACCOs –four current partners and two alumni partners.

Our current partners are:

Our alumni partners have graduated from the Aboriginal Partnership Program. They are:

There is ongoing interest among other Victorian ACCOs to join the program.



In Victoria there are approximately 200 ACCOs. While the issues affecting Aboriginal communities are well known, and despite well-documented statistics of Aboriginal disadvantage, ACCOs continue to underutilise philanthropic funding, even though various trusts and foundations state that funding to Indigenous causes is a priority. Feedback from Philanthropy Australia’s Indigenous Affinity Group about the reasons for this revealed that very few grant applications from ACCOs meet funders’ due-diligence requirements. This finding is consistent with research conducted by Smyllie and Scaife and the findings set out in Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund’s Guide to Indigenous Philanthropy.


Building partnerships for change

The Aboriginal Partnership Program facilitates the development of new, sustainable partnerships between ACCOs and philanthropic trusts and foundations by:

  • Strengthening the capacity of ACCOs to articulate their needs in a confident and compelling way
  • Increasing the capacity of ACCOs to access available resources, including philanthropic funding and pro bono support
  • Building relationships between ACCOs, philanthropic trusts and foundations, and pro bono service providers
  • Increasing the capacity of philanthropic trusts, foundations and private donors to develop genuine, respectful relationships with ACCOs

Upon acceptance into the Aboriginal Partnership Program, a three-year, customised, intensive workplan is developed for each organisation, based on the needs of their community. To date we have supported partners’ efforts to:

  • Achieve and maintain strong, effective and supportive teams of staff and committees of management
  • Ensure that the organisation has strong and effective governance, policies, procedures, infrastructure and systems in place
  • Develop expertise in sourcing philanthropic funding and accessing pro bono services and skilled volunteers
  • Develop strategies enabling the organisation to have sufficient and sustainable income to implement its strategic plans. This support may include brokering funding, introductions to potential funders and participation in donor briefings


Income Generation and Resources Group workshops

Income Generation and Resources Group (IGRG) workshops are held quarterly and provide an opportunity for members of our partner organisations to meet with philanthropic grantmakers, pro bono service providers and student-placement supervisors.

Woor-Dungin established the IGRG program in direct response to our partner organisations’ requests for support in sourcing philanthropic funding.

Our partners consistently report finding IGRG workshops helpful and informative, and often follow up sessions with funding applications – sometimes with success.

Attendees at Woor-Dungin’s Income Generation and Resources Group workshop, 4 October 2017

Willum Warrain, for instance, applied for and received funding from CAGES Foundation for their Welcome Baby to Country initiative and for their bush playgroup, following EO Rachel Kerry’s presentation in April 2017. They also received funding from Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust’s Chris Friday Sub-Fund to help Aboriginal women fleeing domestic violence with rental bonds, following General Manager Carolyn Munckton’s presentation, also in April 2017.

“I find the income generation group guests a great way to hear about a range of different funding opportunities and meet grant officers”

Iain Finlayson, Development and Marketing Manager, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Other IGRG presenters have included Anita Hopkins, Executive Officer of The Jack Brockhoff Foundation, Kirsty Allen, Program Manager at Sidney Myer Fund & The Myer Foundation, and John Spierings, Executive Officer of Reichstein Foundation.


On-country gatherings

An annual on-country gathering for staff and board members of partner organisations to come together, strengthen their relationships, and share information and knowledge has been regularly requested by our partners.

17629903_1281007398619334_1301035860288192251_nThis year we have had an opportunity to facilitate a response. In March 2017 staff and board members from Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association, based in Hastings, Victoria, visited and met with staff and the chairperson of Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation on country in south-western Victoria. This successful venture resulted in an exchange of knowledge, ideas and culture. Here is what Willum Warrain posted on their Facebook page in response to their visit, reproduced with kind permission:

“Some of our mob went on a trip to Winda-Mara mob at Heywood the last few days. Thanks to Christa from Woor-Dungin for organising this visit to Gunditjmara country.

It was a really interesting to hear about Winda-Mara’s community organisation and their journey over the last 25 years. it helped a lot with our dreaming. We learnt heaps and it filled us with confidence for the future.

17759764_1281007028619371_2592695537964199486_nIt was also a great privilege to have Michael Bell (a T.O.) take us out on country to see the old eel traps, the remnants of old stone huts and new ones – we also saw their eel trap design education building and the old Condah mission site, places both fascinating and deeply moving.

We hope to take community there to visit our friends in the future.”

We hope to facilitate many more such collaborative on-country events.

Visits on country have also been shown to be an effective mechanism for building positive and respectful relationships between ACCOs and philanthropy. During Woor-Dungin’s 2014 AGM, barrister and Woor-Dungin member Tim Goodwin noted how important it is for philanthropy to take the time to meet Indigenous grant applicants face to face, ideally on country:

“Build relationships of trust and confidence. Relationships built on trust and confidence mean the most to Indigenous communities and will achieve the best outcomes for both philanthropy and the community concerned. Upon receiving a funding application, pick up the phone and call the organisation – ask questions, clarify points, get to know the people on the application. If possible, meet face to face. If you don’t have time to build those relationships, exit the Indigenous philanthropic space.”

Where mutually requested, Woor-Dungin will assist in facilitating on-country visits by philanthropic organisations and pro bono service providers. In 2016, for instance, Gandel Philanthropy visited Willum Warrain, which resulted in the funding of Willum Warrain’s men’s group.


Professional development and webinars

Woor-Dungin facilitates and supports professional-development opportunities for our Aboriginal partner organisations. An example of this is our Maarni Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program. We have also collaborated recently with the Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership on a webinar produced by Pro Bono Australia and Philanthropy Australia, titled Right Way, Wrong Way, Which Way?, aimed at philanthropic organisations interested in developing their capacity to work effectively with ACCOs. Webinars are an effective means of engaging with philanthropic and other stakeholders over a broad geographic area. Going forward in 2017 we hope to be involved in more.

Read more about our Aboriginal partner organisations and program eligibility criteria by following the links below.