Aboriginal people in remote Australia face challenges that are associated with distance, limited employment and livelihood opportunities and barriers to access services.
Remote communities are isolated from goods and services supplied elsewhere in the country. Physical distance increases costs and presents barriers to education and work opportunities. Aboriginal people in remote Australia also say their experience is that of passive recipients of decisions made in far-away federal, state and territory capital cities.
Maintaining a livelihood in a remote location can be difficult. For Aboriginal people, connections with country can support employment and enterprise through land management, bush foods, arts and tourism. However, low levels of employment persist in many Outback communities.
Health indicators are significantly poorer for Aboriginal people in remote Australia compared with other regions. Aboriginal people with chronic mental or physical health conditions, disabilities or who require aged care, face complex challenges in gaining access to the services they need to live healthy lives.
The relationship between Aboriginal people and the Australian state plays a key role in policy development for remote Australia. Debates around self-determination, recognition and representation continually influence policy initiatives. Many Aboriginal people consider themselves engaged in a constant struggle to have their voices heard and to achieve their aspirations.
Partnerships, participatory processes and learning from evidence are critical in tackling the issues and challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Effective participation means that the voices of people are influential in processes that affect their lives. Given that the experience of Aboriginal people in remote Australia is one of isolation from decision-making, there needs to be a stronger role for participatory program design, planning and implementation. Access to the internet and digital tools will amplify Aboriginal voices and increase access to resources.
Research should be central to policy development. It enables government and communities to assess local needs and to monitor and evaluate the success of programs. Effective policy relies on producing evidence that enables sound decisions to be made. Importantly, service delivery tailored to locally-expressed needs can reduce long-term costs to central government.
Effective partnerships between local organisations, government agencies and specialist professional organisations are one way to improve initiatives for Aboriginal people.
The Outback Alliance advocates for bold initiatives that combine the skills and resources of multiple parties and are dedicated to achieving shared goals and collective strategies. Many success stories exist. The challenge is to overcome shortfalls in capacity and skills, scale up proven examples, and strengthen strategies that enable people and organisations to work together more effectively.