Beyond the white Toyota: Searching for meaningful engagements with remote Aboriginal Australia

Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Dr Eva Mcrae-Williams
Tammy Abbott
Associate Prof Sheree Cairney

The term ‘community engagement’ has become common in governmental discourse across OECD countries including Australia. In the context of remote Aboriginal Australia there is a strong evidence base pointing to the importance of local community control and ownership for effective service delivery particularly in sectors such as health and wellbeing, land management, education and employment. Yet the term ‘community engagement’ means different things to different people with recognised tensions between communities, service providers and governments. A call for strengthening and building meaningful relationships which benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples residing in remote areas continues to be heard and questions around how true and meaningful engagement is or does occur continue to be asked. Through drawing on qualitative data collected as part of the CRC for Remote Economic Participation Interplay Project, this paper helps to define what is meant by engagement in the context of ‘remote’ Aboriginal Australia. In particular, it draws attention to what it might mean for researchers to ‘engage’ in these spaces and what insights such experiences can provide in terms of service provider and governmental relationships with ‘community’.