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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Our Business

The NIAA was established in July 2019 as the lead Agency in the Commonwealth for Indigenous Australians. Prior to this, the Indigenous Affairs Group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet lead government policy and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We play a critical role in supporting the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Australians, and providing assistance to other Ministerial portfolios across the Australian Government. The NIAA represents a fundamental change to doing business by forming partnerships with Indigenous Australians at all levels. This approach has shaped our work in policy design; program and service delivery; and our organisational structure.

As at 31 December 2021, the NIAA has 1,286 staff, of whom 300 identify as Indigenous. The NIAA occupies 39 commercial offices and has a presence in 12 remote communities.

We have an established regional presence that facilitates our engagement with stakeholders and culturally diverse communities, some in very remote locations. Our offices, services and staff are impacted by the natural environment, including the extremities of the Australian climate.

We are focused on the opportunities that exist, including developing northern Australia to benefit Traditional Owners, communities on Country and all Indigenous Australians in the top end. We invest in projects across a range of industries, sectors and society. Funding is allocated through the IAS, National Partnership Agreements, Special Accounts and Special Appropriations.

As an organisation we have a clear picture of who we are and our role in this complex, dynamic system. We have an operating environment that aligns with the expectations of the Prime Minister and Minister’s principles of co-design, partnership and delivery. We are ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are active partners in policy and program design, and effective and efficient service delivery.

The NIAA has embedded a Place Based Practice Framework to support effective relationships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout the NIAA, and across the Commonwealth and with other key stakeholders. The Place Based Practice Framework is designed to help us frame a consistent and effective approach to working in place, and a common platform to build the capability and skills of staff. It builds on what we know and do (engagement, co-design and understanding place) to make sure our effort and investment is effectively used to achieve the most benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (urban, regional and remote).

The NIAA is committed to enhancing its organisational culture to achieve and maintain a diverse, culturally safe and capable workforce. This is achieved through the Agency’s Footprints Program. Footprints is a cross-cultural awareness program, with all staff required to undertake and report on their participation in local activities to achieve 100 points each year. Activities are developed at individual and group level, and tailored to the needs of the business area and strengthen the understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Our role and function, supported by the ongoing commitment of our staff, demonstrates leadership in reconciliation through a proven history of embedding RAP initiatives, and demonstrating leadership across critical stakeholders including the Commonwealth Government. We operate and deliver outcomes against the five dimensions of reconciliation, including:

  • Race relations
  • Equality and equity
  • Unity
  • Institutional integrity
  • Historical acceptance

We achieve outcomes and deliver against these by:

Influencing

We have a broad remit at the Commonwealth level to lead and coordinate Commonwealth policy and influence all programs and services being delivered. We are exercising this influence in a way to ensure services are delivered where they are needed and in a way that meets the needs of local people. This includes leading the development and implementation of measures that aim to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the recipients of Government services, and as staff across the APS. Our ability to influence delivers on our inherent and underlying commitment to reconciliation in everything we do to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

The NIAA’s funding through the IAS represents only a relatively small portion of the total national investment that supports Indigenous Australians. To fully maximise these outcomes, the NIAA demonstrates and embeds reconciliation by bringing people together to maximise the benefit of government investment, influence positive outcomes, and improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Engaging with stakeholders

We work with a broad range of stakeholders across the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and the business sector, and partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and leaders. We work across the Commonwealth Government to strengthen outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, supporting them to identify and implement approaches that provide culturally appropriate and accessible services that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can access.

Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is central to the NIAA’s work - it enriches our advice to government, informs decision making, and contributes to better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our ability to influence delivers on our inherent and underlying commitment to reconciliation in everything we do to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Central to this is the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came into effect in July 2020. The National Agreement is a new model of working together, where all governments work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders with an increased level of accountability, transparency and responsibility between all parties. The NIAA has been instrumental in supporting Government to develop and implement this agreement. The National Agreement brings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples together with Government to develop and implement responses to issues being faced by Indigenous peoples. The partnership arrangements under the National Agreement include a Joint Council on Closing the Gap comprising 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, with ministerial representation from all jurisdictions and the President of the Australian Local Government Association. It is the first National Federation Reform Council (NFRC) Joint Council to include members from outside government, and is a historic step forward in the working relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments. The NIAA is proud to lead and coordinate this work.

The National Agreement is a new model of working together, where all governments work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders with an increased level of accountability, transparency and responsibility between all parties.

Working in and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

The NIAA has a permanent presence of regional offices around Australia. We work with local Indigenous leaders and communities, remote, metropolitan and regional governance entities and peak national bodies. We recognise that each community is unique, and our regional offices work closely with communities to co- design solutions, support strategic partnerships, realise economic opportunities in place and design services that respond to the changing needs of communities. This aligns with the Australian Government’s commitment to local and regional decision making.

Our ability to work in and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the broader contemporary Australian community, is a critical part of the national discussion. This national discussion is focused on unity, equality and equity, and acceptance of our shared history as Australians. Our contributions to this include:

  • Sharing knowledge and understanding of the shared history of all Australians, that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ ongoing cultures and histories as an important part of our national story.
  • We work across partners to support this journey and provide guidance, and assist with connections between non- Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This supports access to local communities, so that our APS partners are better able to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Helping our partners across the APS recruit, develop and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff; recognising that the value that they bring is unique and provides a platform for the APS to better understand and respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Harnessing the knowledge and skills of our Indigenous staff

As at 31 December 2021, NIAA had approximately 300 staff identify as Indigenous, representing approximately 23% of our total staff profile.

In 2020, the NIAA established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network (ATSIN) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the NIAA. ATSIN is a national network, available to all Indigenous staff to support one another, share information and celebrate successes.

The role of the ATSIN is to:

  1. Provide a supportive space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to come together and make connections
  2. Promote a unified, respectful and inclusive Agency wide culture by modelling and consistently demonstrating the NIAA values and behaviours including cultural safety
  3. Raise awareness and understanding of issues relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff
  4. Contribute to the NIAA and APS wide diversity strategies, including engaging with other NIAA staff diversity networks as appropriate
  5. Promote opportunities to support the success and inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in the NIAA, and
  6. Support the Agency’s efforts to acknowledge particular days of significance

The ATSIN is supported by the ATSIN Committee, which is comprised of one SES staff member and 6 elected members from the ATSIN: 3 members from the Canberra region and 3 members from outside of Canberra. ATSIN members can approach any member of the ATSIN Committee for assistance or guidance with matters relating to the purpose of the network.

 National Indigenous Australians Agency

Our Environment

We are committed to providing a safe, modern and connected environment for all our staff.

Our Culture

We are committed to building a unified, supportive and creative culture.

Our People

We are committed to investing in our people to build capability and provide opportunities.

Our Vision

NIAA is a reliable and trusted partner contributing to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Our Purpose

The purpose of NIAA is to assist the Australian Government achieve its objectives in improving the lives of Indigenous Australians by leading the development of the Commonwealth’s approach, focusing on place, working in partnership, and effectively delivering programs through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

We achieve this by …

  • Building our influence
  • Identifying economic and human capital development opportunities
  • Building genuine partnerships
  • Investing to deliver the greatest benefit
  • Being a capable, engaged and unified workforce
  • Using data and evidence to inform our approach

Which is underpinned by Our Values

  • We respect multiple perspectives
  • We deliver with purpose
  • We are authentic
  • We invest in each other’s success
  • We are professional and act with integrity