Evidence is critical to designing and improving policies and programs that improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Yet we know that, nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people currently have historically had limited input into the processes of evaluation planning, implementation and reporting.
Recognising the link between evaluation and better outcomes, the Australian Government has recently committed to improve the evaluation of policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As a result, a new Indigenous Evaluation Strategy (2020) has been developed to be used by all Australian Government agencies for policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Strategy is designed to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by having policy and program decisions informed by high‑quality evaluation methods, processes and evidence that are relevant and meaningful.
The strategy focuses on:
- Delivering better evaluations: How can we improve the quality of evaluations to make them more credible?
- Delivering more useful evaluations: How can the findings from evaluations be used more effectively to improve policies and programs?
At its core, we need to continue to improve our methods to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and perspectives at the centre of evaluation, and throughout its life cycle, from planning and design through to implementation and reporting.
We need to ensure that we plan and design approaches that work with and alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when deciding what to evaluate and how to conduct an evaluation. For example:
- Asking questions that address issues that are important and meaningful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people/communities
- Measuring things that are important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Ensuring that research methodologies are always ethical, acceptable and culturally safe.
As an external evaluator who is commissioned to conduct evaluations, Larter Consulting always strives to use best practice in designing our methods and approaches. We are always looking at ways to improving the quality and usefulness of our evaluations, and we welcome this new strategy as a reminder and motivator.
Some of the key issues from a consulting or evaluation perspective that can sometimes be missed in designing methodology for evaluations that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (for reasons of efficiency or time constraints, for example), include:
- ensuring decisions about methodology, data planning, collection and use are undertaken with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, including issues of data governance and ownership, and communication of data and results
- ensuring that results are synthesised, translated and disseminated in (a) in accessible and meaningful ways; and (b) in forms that can be used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to support decision making in community, in funded organisations and by funders.
Since its publication we have used the Indigenous Evaluation Strategy to develop our own Best Practice Checklist to use throughout the evaluation lifecycle when working with Aboriginal health programs or activities.
Contact us if you would like to learn more or to discuss an evaluation project.