Indigenous Affairs consultant calls for system overhaul


Dr Kevin Dolman

Dr Kevin Dolman

Research conducted by a Perth-based analyst and government advisor indicates that reframing the 50-year-old Indigenous affairs policy-making approach could provide increasingly positive outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples.

Dr Kevin Dolman, who received his PhD from the Northern Territory’s Charles Darwin University this week, said there was a systematic problem of poor quality administration at all levels of government and this was hindering the efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure in Indigenous affairs. 

“The administrative framework I refer to in my research stems from 1967 when a Referendum decided that the Commonwealth and the states would share power in administrating Indigenous affairs,” he said.

“And that power-sharing arrangement has had ‘dismally poor returns to date’, which is a quote from a 2010 Commonwealth Department of Finance and Deregulation report.”

The report states: “In the Indigenous area, more than any other, there has been a huge gap between policy intent and policy execution, with numerous examples of well-intentioned policies and programs which have failed to produce their intended results because of serious flaws in implementation and delivery.”

“What I’ve been trying to do with my research is find out why this is the case, given Australia has one of the world’s best public service structures,” Dr Dolman said. “My research revealed that there are structural and cultural bureaucratic barriers to holistic government coordination and community partnerships that can be overcome with careful risk analysis and planning.”

Dr Dolman, who has worked in the Indigenous affairs sector for 25 years, said his research highlighted the “good news” that significant improvements could be made to the wellbeing of Indigenous communities by ensuring a mindset of best practice within the $30-plus billion administrative system.

“There is a need to meticulously concentrate on the fundamentals of good policy development, implementation and evaluation of Indigenous expenditure. My research points to the specific areas that need attention, plus we need a clear and binding statement of the national mission that all parties in the system are committed to,” he said.

Dr Dolman says a seminar he gave to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra last week outlining the findings of his research was well-received and promising. 

Dr Dolman graduated as part of CDU’s ceremonies with his thesis titled, “Dismally poor returns to date”: A review of the Indigenous affairs system.

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