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Existing partnerships between Indigenous communities, governments and service providers are providing lessons on how best to coordinate service delivery, according to a resource sheet released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

The website is produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

But while coordinated efforts do yield benefits, evidence that they lead to improved outcomes for the people and communities involved is ‘hard to come by’, according to AIHW spokesperson Nigel Harding.

‘What we do know is that Indigenous families are affected by a range of complex and interrelated  issues that have an effect on their wellbeing, and that a coordinated “joined-up” or “whole of government” approach to delivering human services can be more effective than a range of discreet specialist services, what some people call the “silo-based” approach.’

‘Our paper, Effective practices for service delivery coordination in Indigenous communities, written by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, shows that effective coordination of service delivery can yield benefits such as more efficient use of resources and improved working relationships among service providers’, Mr Harding said.

‘But while these benefits are obviously welcome, it is also clear that systematic evidence- based evaluations of the outcomes for individuals, families and communities are not common. The evaluations that are conducted tend to be about how well services have been delivered from the service delivery side, or are personal accounts given by people delivering the services, or their clients. These approaches have their place of course, but are not the complete solution.’

‘Our paper also shows how important it is that joined-up initiatives are culturally appropriate, with the early stages of any initiatives being to build cultural awareness among staff and to take advice from people with local knowledge of cultural issues.’

‘You also need to invest time and resources in community consultations, understand and work with a community’s strengths and support both Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff on the ground.’

‘It must also be clear that the benefits of a coordinated approach outweigh the time and resources needed for coordination’, Mr Harding said.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is an online source of information on best practice and success factors to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is jointly funded by all Australian governments.

Canberra, 5 December 2011

Further information: Mr Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Effective practices for service delivery coordination in Indigenous communities Resource sheet no. 8, Closing the Gap Clearinghouse.