Aboriginal Partnership Program
We use this term to describe all the activities we engage in with First Nations communities. It is our essence. We exist to provide the Aboriginal Partnership Program. The specifics are described in the Woor-Dungin Model.
In the past, Woor-Dungin developed an exclusive relationship with 5 ACCOs and the term Partner was used to describe the relationship.
Currently our relationships encompass a large number of ACCOs throughout Victoria with a goal of generating increasing interest among ACCOs not yet participating in the Program.
Thus, the growth of the Program and the growth of Woor-Dungin are intertwined. Increasing the involvement of the larger Victorian community to join us in Walking With First Nations communities is the best path to a positive future for all.
We host workshops with groups of ACCOs in order to provide training on topics of general interest or to develop coalitions when communities have identified issues for which advocacy is necessary. Woor-Dungin also provides an Aboriginal developed and led workshop “Decolonising Wealth, Cultural Audit Toolkit" and other resources to facilitate philanthropy’s utilisation of a decolonised approach to working with First Nations peoples.
We simultaneously work with mob in developing the skills needed to secure philanthropic funds.
"Philanthropy has a vital role in creating (a) glad tomorrow for us Aboriginal peoples. We ask you, philanthropy, to listen to us deeply, to practice dadirri, and walk beside us as friends, partners and co-imaginers. We want philanthropy to understand, and even enter, our dreaming..."
Peter Aldenhoven, Willum-Warrain Gathering Place, Hastings
Philanthropic grantmakers are increasingly aware of the need to build strong, respectful funding relationships with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, and a number of exciting initiatives towards achieving this are underway. In our role as Philanthropy Australia’s National Moderator for Indigenous Issues, it is clear to us that a number of funders are demonstrating an interest in sharing advice and learnings.
While there are some great examples emerging, Woor-Dungin believes that the Australian philanthropic sector could do more. Philanthropic organisations and individuals continue to need advice and guidance in their dealings with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to build better, stronger relationships. Indeed, a growing number of people we talk to support Woor-Dungin’s view that a fundamental change in approach is needed.
We continue to see instances of impersonal funding practices, onerous reporting requirements and frustrating application forms. This can be off-putting for some organisations, especially those that are small, with only a few staff, and can even lead to the abandonment of the process. Some funders continue to insist on tangible, easily measurable short-term outcomes only, instead of also considering programs whose outcomes cannot be easily or quickly delivered, such as advocacy, which are necessarily important to measure over a longer time frame to successfully address priority needs identified by communities.
The Biggest Problems
From our experience, we have summarised the seven biggest problems with the way traditional philanthropy approaches support for Aboriginal organisations:
The written application process can be confronting and the language used intimidating.
Timelines are often too inflexible to accommodate Aboriginal cultural needs.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
On the other hand, where philanthropic foundations and trusts take a longer view, show greater willingness to be flexible about funding criteria and timelines, and work hard to establish the trust needed to build enduring, respectful relationships with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, then the results for all parties are more effective and more satisfying. Most importantly, the outcomes are better for the Aboriginal communities the grants are allocated to assist.
The Respectful Relationships program aims to support philanthropy’s capacity to do this in partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations. Woor-Dungin is excited to be involved in helping to guide this important change.
The Criminal Record Discrimination Project
Aboriginal Justice Forum 49, December 2017. (L-R) Stan Winford, Michael Bell, Simone Spencer, Christa Momot, Bronwyn Naylor, Naomi Murphy and Wenzel Carter with Greg Wilson, Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation
The Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP) was a Woor-Dungin and Aboriginal-led collaboration driven by an Advisory Committee with over 50 members convened by Michael Bell, CEO of Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation and Christa Momot, former CEO and founding member of Woor-Dungin.
It sought to achieve the following reforms:
The introduction of a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria, and
An amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to prohibit discrimination against people with an irrelevant criminal record.
In February 2016 Woor-Dungin began gathering stories of how discrimination on the basis of a criminal record affected Aboriginal people. The story of Uncle Larry Walsh which received significant media attention, highlighted a standard practice until 1989 for children to get a police record for being removed from their family.
In April 2017 Woor-Dungin hosted a consultation with community members and legal stakeholders, including a panel of experts from Monash University , RMIT University, (particularly Stan Winford and Bronwyn Naylor) and the law firms Ashurst and Colin Biggers & Paisley on what spent convictions legislation and protection from discrimination on the basis of irrelevant records should look like. A position paper, along with 11 case-studies was submitted to the statewide Aboriginal Justice Forum held in Swan Hill, Victoria, on 12–13 December 2017.
On 8 March, 2018, the Victorian Government tabled a letter in Parliament which included a formal apology to the victims of the previous policy and ensuring children taken into care are never again given criminal records. The Spent Convictions Act 2021 passed the Victorian Parliament on 18 March 2021.
We acknowledge the funding provided by the Myer Foundation, the Williams Fund sub-fund of the Australian Communities Foundation, the Victoria Law Foundation, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Tarwirri and the Law Institute of Victoria.
Building on earlier successful work addressing this issue, the Rethinking Criminal Records project will educate employers and job seekers about their rights and obligations in disclosing criminal history.
The Rethinking Criminal Record Checks (RCRC) project is being carried out by RMIT University in partnership with Woor-Dungin, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (VACCHO) and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and is funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board.
The RCRC project has established a Reference Committee made up of Aboriginal community leaders and representatives of key Aboriginal organisations which will provide advice, guidance and feedback to support the delivery of the project.