Belinda is a proud Dharug woman, the traditional owner group from Western Sydney Australia. She has over 20 years’ experience in education, policy and program delivery, in both government and the not for profit sector, including a senior manager role at the Healing Foundation, and CEO at Australia’s leading Indigenous education provider, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC).
Belinda also sits on a number of Boards, including the Dharug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation (DTAC) and CranaPlus, A not for profit organisation which exists to ensure the delivery of safe, high quality primary healthcare to remote and isolated areas of Australia.
Collective Wellbeing - is there a first step?
Indigenous Community Volunteers has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for 18 years. Four years ago we developed ICV’s Story of Change – a theory that cements the patterns and themes of the steps many communities have taken towards holistic wellbeing. For many communities, improving community and organisational leadership, governance and capacity has been a key step to achieving longer term aspirations for collective wellbeing. We have developed an Action Research Project that asks the question, ‘How does ICV’s approach strengthen understanding and implementation of governance to empower communities to achieve their dream?’ Fourteen communities have agreed to participate, and we are carefully considering how communities can benefit not just from the ‘action’ in the research (our ongoing community development activities with them), but also from the research. The research involves co-authoring case studies with each community; semi-structured interviews using a participatory tool we have developed; and our team spending time to understand the strengths of each communities’ traditional governance structures: seeing with our eyes, our mind, body and spirit. We have received ethical approval from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) for the project.
Monitoring a community’s ‘dream’ for future generations
Indigenous Community Volunteers has spent the past four years on a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning journey. In this time we committed to regularly yarning about our community development practice and documenting our community development framework. It cemented once again our values: to prioritise self-determination in all we do – including our monitoring and evaluation with communities. We enable communities to define their future and destiny based on sovereignty and rights. We work only by invitation, community owns and drives the work and our team of community development officers and volunteers build capability in areas defined by communities themselves. As a result of building our values into our monitoring and evaluation practices, the indicators we measure are co-designed with communities. The voice of communities is at the heart of what we do. Another key discovery of creating our community development framework: the communities we work with are very focused on the future! The flexibility in our community development framework allows communities to build strong, trusting relationships and articulate long-term goals – their vision for the future. Our community development approach allows communities to overcome barriers and challenges and lay down a solid foundation for a brighter future for generations to come. They are carefully considering how to care for their grandkids and great-grandkids. We have had a dramatic change in the way we measure to better support communities achieve their aspirations for future generations – now we measure “dream” indicators too: seeing with our eyes, our mind, body and spirit. We would like to hear how other First Nations evaluators are monitoring “dream” indicators too.