Appendix K Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services Annual Report 2010–11

Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services Annual Report Cover Letter

The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services is a statutory officer, established under the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009.

The Office of the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services is responsible for:

The Coordinator General has the authority to work across government agencies to cut through red tape and bureaucratic blockages and to help ensure services are delivered effectively in the 29 priority remote communities. The key roles of the Coordinator General are to drive the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery, oversee the development and delivery of the Local Implementation Plans and contributions to Closing the Gap in priority communities, and provide governments with guidance on good practice.

The Coordinator General is required to formally report to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs twice a year on progress, and ensure that all government agencies are held accountable for their implementation responsibilities under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery.

Focus in 2010–11

In 2010–11, the focus for the Office has been on consolidating its role in the remote service delivery landscape, and in monitoring the rollout of the Local Implementation Plans and ensuring that they are focused on improving the overall functioning and cohesiveness of the specified communities. We have been working with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and other Australian Government agencies on enhancing accountability mechanisms.

We have also worked with governments on improving their efforts to build governance and capacity (including the skills of government officers working in remote contexts), as well as on school attendance, funding reform and infrastructure.

At the end of 2010, I reviewed the staffing structure of the Office to ensure that we have the capability to respond appropriately. I increased the capacity of the reporting and communications role, and restructured the communities stream to allow for greater strategic oversight of the role. In addition, our key areas of focus are reviewed every six months to ensure they remain relevant.

I have commissioned an independent mid-term review of the Office, which should be complete in September 2011. The review will examine how the Office has performed in reporting on progress, driving implementation, removing blockages and providing guidance on systemic reform and identify potential areas for improvement.

A major focus during the year has been the production of two reports to the Minister in September 2010 and March 2011. We have also been following up on the progress that has been made on addressing the recommendations and issues raised in previous reports. This will be a major focus of my fourth report in September 2011. From 2012, I propose to produce one major report in September, with a brief update to the Minister in March.

Our website (www.cgris.gov.au) is a key element of our reporting, transparency and accountability mechanisms and is a unique information source for public use. The capability of the website has been significantly enhanced during the year to provide more community-specific information in an accessible way, as well as information on Local Implementation Plans across key thematic areas.

Another focus this year has been consolidating relationships with key stakeholders. The network of state and territory Coordinators General was strengthened by the addition of national coordinators during the last part of 2010. The role and function of the network were formalised in June 2011, and a number of priority areas of focus were agreed for joint progression during 2011–12.

We also continue to be active participants in Boards of Management and the Australian Government coordination mechanisms. I have been pleased to attend two workshops for Regional Operations Centre Managers, which in my view have strengthened this critical relationship. We participate in the key governance bodies for the Cape York Welfare Reform trial and in the Infrastructure Australia Working Group to develop a National Strategic Policy Framework for Remote Indigenous Infrastructure Planning and Development.

Once again, to obtain independent feedback on our performance, we conducted a stakeholder survey in April and May 2011. We surveyed 178 stakeholders and had a response rate of 22 per cent. The results are included throughout the remainder of the report.

Outcomes

The main mechanism for reporting on outcomes is the six-monthly report to the Minister. The highlights in 2010–11 included:

Outlook

In 2011–12, the focus of the Office will be firmly on tightening and effective implementation of existing commitments in Local Implementation Plans and arrangements.

The Office will continue to focus on community development approaches, improved local engagement and effective community participation to inform policy and program development.

We will work with agencies to develop mechanisms for a service assessment framework to feed into regular progress reports to ministers on individual communities and the progress of improvements.

We will also implement the agreed recommendations of the mid-term review.

Role, functions and structure

The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services is an independent statutory officer, with staff located within the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Role

The Office of the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services was established to:

Functions

The functions of the Coordinator General are set out in section 8 of the Coordinator‑General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009. These are to:

monitor, assess, advise in relation to, and drive:

  1. the development and delivery of government services and facilities in each of the specified remote communities to a standard broadly comparable with that in non‑Indigenous communities of similar size, location and needs elsewhere in Australia, including through:
    1. improvements to the coordination of the development and delivery of such services and facilities; and
    2. reforms to the development and delivery of such services and facilities; and
  2. progress towards achieving the Closing the Gap targets in the specified remote communities.

Under the Act, the Coordinator General is required to:

The Office seeks to balance its overseeing and reporting roles against its role of driving the remote service delivery agenda by engaging with departments and other stakeholders.

The reports and further information about the role and functions of the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services are available on our website at www.cgris.gov.au.

Organisational structure

The staff who support the Coordinator General in the performance of these functions are employed in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. All staff members are formally located in Canberra, with one officer out-posted in Brisbane.

To better position the Office to respond to changing priorities, the staffing structure was reviewed at the end of 2010. The revised structure is reflected in Figure K-1.

We are also active participants in the Department’s graduate trainee program and have had a number of officers on short-term placements and seconded from other agencies to assist in implementing our project approach.

Figure K 1 Organisational structure on 30 June 2011

Figure K 1 Organisational structure on 30 June 2011

Management and accountability

Corporate governance

The Secretary of FaHCSIA is responsible for our corporate governance.

The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services (or delegate) is a member of the Department’s Senior Management Group and the committees and boards noted in Table K1.

Table K 1 Membership of committees and boards

Committee/board Meets
Australian Government
Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs Every two months
Executive Committee for Indigenous Affairs Six weekly
Commonwealth Indigenous Reform Group Six weekly
Closing the Gap Committee (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) Monthly
Remote Service Delivery cross-agency meeting Monthly
National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force interdepartmental committee Monthly
Intergovernmental
Boards of Management/State Operations Committees/State Management Committees in each jurisdiction Monthly/six weekly
Indigenous Infrastructure Working Group As required
Coordinators General network (Secretariat) Every two months
Other
Cape York Welfare Reform Project Board (observer) Quarterly
Cape York Welfare Reform Pentagon Six weekly
Workshops to develop the Remote Service Delivery Evaluation Framework As required

The Coordinator General assisted the Secretary at Senate Estimates hearings in February 2011.

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs assists the Coordinator General with the provision of the full range of corporate support functions, including asset management, purchasing, consultancies, information technology, communications, human resources, information (library) services and records management.

Review of performance

The Office’s strategic objectives are set out in Figure K2. A detailed report on our performance against each objective follows.

Figure K 2 Objectives

Figure K 2 Objectives

Performance in achieving objectives, 2010–11

Objective 1. Effective assessment and reporting of progress

Section 15 of the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Act 2009 sets out our responsibilities with respect to reporting:

The Coordinator General must prepare and give to the Minister twice each year, or as otherwise required by the Minister, a report on:

  1. the development and delivery, during the period since the Coordinator General last gave a report to the Minister under this section, of government services and facilities in each of the specified remote communities … including through:
    1. improvements to the coordination of the development and delivery of such services and facilities; and
    2. reforms to the development and delivery of such services and facilities; and
  2. the progress that has been made during that period towards achieving the Closing the Gap targets in the specified remote communities.

The second six-monthly report was released on 5 October 2010. It reviewed the process for developing Local Implementation Plans and examined some of the issues that have arisen in the course of initial work with communities. As in the first report, it made a number of recommendations, which were referred to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Working Group on Indigenous Reform for consideration (see also Objective 3).

The third six-monthly report was released on 4 April 2011. It reviewed progress and examined the implementation of the place-based approach at the community level. The third report made no specific recommendations, but raised a number of issues that have been referred to the COAG Working Group on Indigenous Reform.

Objective 2. Effective monitoring of Local Implementation Plans

The key mechanism for ongoing activity in each of the 29 priority communities is the Local Implementation Plan. Local Implementation Plans set out service delivery priorities that were agreed between community groups and governments, and non‑government and private sector organisations where relevant, consistent with the COAG targets. The plans include targets, actions and associated milestones and timelines and are publicly reported against annually.

The Office’s responsibilities for local implementation planning are set out in section 14 of the Act:

  1. The Coordinator General may comment on draft Local Implementation Plans.
  2. The Coordinator General must monitor the implementation of each Local Implementation Plan.

Throughout the process, it has been acknowledged that the first versions of Local Implementation Plans are works in progress. For this reason, ‘plans to plan’, incomplete building blocks and limited detail in some cases have been accepted as necessary to achieve sign-off in the time available. Nonetheless, during 2011–12 I will be advocating for revised versions that address the key issues, both process and content, raised in my reports and include specific actions for each commitment and firm timelines as well as defined outcomes and performance measures.

The Office monitors the development and implementation of Local Implementation Plans at local, state and territory, and national levels. At the local level this is done through liaison with Regional Operations Centres. At the jurisdictional level this is done through participation in the Remote Service Delivery Boards of Management, with receipt of regular reports and discussion of progress with all participating state, territory and Commonwealth government agencies.

At the national level it is done through participation in the whole-of-government governance arrangements for the National Partnership Agreement, including the Remote Service Delivery Cross-Agency Working Group, which is chaired by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Objective 3. Policies and programs that are delivered in a way that improves the overall functioning and cohesiveness of the specified communities

To be effective, the Office must be capable of working with agencies and stakeholders to drive the implementation of the remote service delivery approach. This requires leadership in articulating the new model of service required by governments and a capacity to influence our partners to shift their focus, resources and effort in line with the COAG-agreed goals.

To do this we need to:

The second report made 14 separate recommendations. Five recommendations were agreed, eight were agreed in principle and one was noted and referred to the Heads of Treasuries Committee under COAG.

We are now working with Boards of Management to monitor progress on implementation of the recommendations that were agreed by COAG. This will be reported on in the forthcoming fourth report due in September 2011.

I included a status report on the recommendations in the first and second reports in my third report, which was subsequently published on the web. The main focus of my fourth report will be progress on addressing the systemic issues previously raised with governments.

We have also influenced policy by:

The Office has also contributed a number of papers to jurisdictional Board of Management meetings to contribute to the development of the new way of working within the remote service delivery approach, including economic development, community safety planning and youth.

In addition, during 2010–11 we worked with stakeholders to unblock problems with service delivery across all jurisdictions. Some of the issues we have been able to assist towards a positive outcome include:

Objective 4. Sound cooperative working relationships with our stakeholders

Our role is to influence outcomes by providing leadership, support and advice to those engaged directly in implementing the remote service delivery approach. Therefore, the strength of our relationships with others is critical to our effectiveness as an organisation.

During 2010–11, members of our staff sat on a number of Boards of Management and used the opportunity to influence policies and implementation where possible (see Table K-1). Within the Australian Government, the major coordination committees (the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Affairs and the Executive Forum for Indigenous Affairs) have standing items for remote service delivery and the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services.

The Coordinators General network has proved to be an effective forum to exchange views and information on a regular basis. National coordinators, particularly those from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Health and Ageing, attended a number of meetings during the year to ensure that strategic issues were progressed. It has now been agreed that the national coordinator from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs will attend meetings as the representative of the Australian Government.

Regular visits to communities have been essential to meet with key people and gain an on-the-ground understanding of key challenges. The communities visited during the year are detailed in Table K-2.

Table K-2 Stakeholder engagement—community visits, 2010–11

Northern Territory
Angurugu May 2011
Galiwin’ku May 2011
Gapuwiyak March 2011
Gunbalanya November 2010
Lajamanu March 2011
Maningrida June 2011
Milingimbi March 2011
Ngukurr April 2011
Ntaria (Hermannsburg) July 2010, March 2011
Numbulwar March 2011
Wadeye June 2011
Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu) June 2011
Yirrkala July, November 2010
Yuendumu July 2010
New South Wales
Walgett August 2010
Wilcannia August 2010
Queensland
Aurukun June 2011
Coen October 2010, June 2011
Mossman Gorge November 2010
South Australia
Amata November 2010, June 2011
Mimili November 2010
Western Australia
Beagle Bay May 2011

The Coordinator General has made a number of formal presentations to meetings and workshops, including to the national conference of the Institute of Public Administration Australia. This has been an opportunity to build understanding of, and advocate for, the new approach under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery.

We are committed to promoting transparency and driving change through the use of communication tools. The key mechanism for this has been developing our website so that it details progress by place.

The website was designed to be a useful resource dedicated to the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery. The aim has been to provide information on the Office, the 29 priority communities, and publications and presentations and to provide exposure for positive case studies, particularly relating to progress in the 29 priority communities. These stories have helped to maintain momentum in implementing the new remote service delivery approach.

Our website has maintained a steady rate of use throughout the year. The systems for monitoring web activity changed during the year to allow us to better track unique users.

In the first half of the year, the website had an average of over 120 visits a day (peaking at 13,376 on the day of the release of the second report) and around 3,800 visits a month. In an average month, more than 220 visitors stayed more than three minutes. The average level of traffic remained around 20 per cent higher following the release of the second report. In 2011, the average length of stay was around three and a half minutes, and around 400 unique visitors each week. Unfortunately, it was not possible to monitor the increase in traffic following the release of the third report.

Through the ‘Contact us’ section of the website, we received 73 requests for information.

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