The adoption of an outcomes approach allows for flexible responses to emerging challenges based on the best available evidence and learning. Research findings, internal and external evaluations, recommendations from international, national and state inquiries and reviews will be examined for their relevance to the Victorian context, and applied where appropriate.
For example, the evaluation of AJA3 demonstrated that successful AJA initiatives are built on:
Community ownership of initiatives: The involvement of Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations or bodies (e.g. gathering places) as the prime delivery agent for services to Aboriginal people is central to the success of the AJA’s approach. Led by Aboriginal people, these organisations are best placed to understand community needs and deliver responsive services. Basing programs within Aboriginal organisations improves the credibility of programs within the community, strengthens coordination at the local level, and increases client access to a range of programs and services.
A supported and resourced Aboriginal workforce: Successful programs employ Aboriginal staff who are known in the community, respected and trusted by program participants, highly motivated, well-trained, and skilled at providing cultural support to clients. These workers ‘walk between the two worlds’ of community and government and act as a mediator and sometimes translator for both. Successful programs resource workers adequately and provide supports to manage cultural loads and vicarious trauma.
Strong local leadership: The effectiveness of the AJA, and in particular the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees (RAJACs) and Local Aboriginal Justice Action Committees (LAJACs), is contingent upon the strength and passion of individual members. This includes strong leaders from both the community and government. LAJACs and RAJACs play a crucial role in facilitating the participatory identification of needs and development of plans to address those needs. Involving the RAJACs/LAJACs in setting priorities also allows for prioritisation according to community strengths so that programs have the greatest chance of success.
An integrated approach to culture: Where success has been achieved, the overarching factor that has contributed to that success is strength of identity and strength of culture. Programs that take an integrated approach to culture, where culture is not viewed as a set of stand-alone activities that can be separated or isolated from other programs and services, are able to provide a more culturally-responsive approach to the needs of Aboriginal clients, and consequently tend to have higher rates of client participation and effectiveness.
Joined up and collaborative working: The most successful initiatives have a high level of active networking and strong collaboration between justice agencies, service providers and the Aboriginal community. Joined-up programs take a holistic approach to the provision of services that focus on underlying protective and risk factors; integrate referral systems; have well-functioning steering committees; and strong stakeholder relationships that provide staff with opportunities for networking and sharing information.
Addressing issues holistically: The most effective programs address issues holistically rather than taking a singular focus on offending. This includes using client-centred approaches where support is tailored to each person in accordance with his or her individual needs and circumstances. Taking a holistic approach instead of simply focusing on criminal behaviours, which only offers short-term solutions.