Closing The (Effectiveness) Gap
Lead Moderator Peter Mares talks with alumnus Romlie Mokak, Commissioner, about the new strategy being developed by the Productivity Commission for evaluating policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The commission sees this new strategy as an urgent priority: as its chair, Michael Brennan, wrote in the foreword to the draft strategy earlier this month, “despite decades of new policies and programs aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we know very little about their impact.”
Over 25 years Romlie’s seen a range of approaches to impact assessment, often bolted on to programs and strategies as afterthoughts.
He wants to turn things around by putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre of evaluation, because, as the Productivity Commission’s draft strategy recognises, “governments need to draw on the perspectives, priorities and knowledges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people if outcomes are to improve.”
Beneath this overarching principle, with its emphasis on “genuine engagement and partnership,” sit four subsidiary principles: all evaluations should be “credible, useful, ethical and transparent.”
“What I’m keen to do is to take a conversation away from just being about accountability and compliance and getting rapped over the knuckles,” he says, referring to the research that shows Indigenous organisations are often loaded up with much more onerous reporting and financial accountability requirements than their mainstream counterparts.
He isn’t just interested in the kind of hard data — rates of employment, income, incarceration and disease, for instance — that characterises Closing the Gap. He wants to ensure that Indigenous people have the capabilities and opportunities to live the lives they value, in a context that affirms Indigenous identities, cultures and contributions.