Bridging the Gap Both-Ways: Enhancing Evaluation Quality and Utilisation in a Study of Remote Community Safety and Wellbeing with Indigenous Australians

Kim Grey, Judy Putt, Nathalie Baxter, Sue Sutton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper demonstrates how the voices of people affected by a policy can contribute to evaluation quality and utilisation. In this participatory mixed-methods approach, Indigenous Australians in remote parts of the Northern Territory of Australia were involved in evaluation of an intervention that significantly affected their daily lives. The evaluation was inspired by the ideas and values demonstrated in a both-ways learning model. This mixed-methods approach combines a people-centered participatory methodology with a more standardised policy-focused application of survey methods to contribute to policy development and local planning. The aim of the study was to hear from local people in communities and encourage them to share their views about changes in community safety. It provided a voice for Indigenous Australians affected by the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), which sought to protect children in 73 Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory. The aim of the NTER was to create safer communities and to improve health, nutrition, educational outcomes, service delivery and engagement with Indigenous people. Regardless of views about the NTER, a clear gap in the evidence base for evaluation was to understand if people felt safer after the intervention. Increased police, safe houses, night patrols, health services, family support services and management of income support payments were introduced, but what did Indigenous people living in remote communities think? What was their experience and what will happen to the information they may choose to share? Adopting a mixed-methods approach that included a large-scale survey and qualitative research conducted with local Indigenous residents of remote communities strengthened evaluative findings, particularly for policy makers and community residents. A participatory research cycle was used to engage local people and return results in an ethical feedback process that aimed to build capacity on the ground and link into future planning. We sought to promote the role of evaluation in remote Northern Territory communities as a worthwhile way for local people to share their voice, stories and experiences with the policy makers whose decisions can so significantly affect their lives.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-24
    Number of pages10
    JournalEvaluation Journal of Australasia
    Volume16
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

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