How do we build capacity among Aboriginal peoples?

Our capacity building work supports Aboriginal peoples to advocate for their own needs, and be heard, through diverse activities. Initially, our work was based in the community of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) in Central Australia, but it has since expanded to various sites across the Northern Territory and remote NSW.

Our capacity building work includes:

  • Stronger Communities for Children: we support Aboriginal peoples to build strong, independent lives where children, families and communities are safe and healthy; the program is funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and ensures that local people have a real say in what services they need and how they’re delivered
  • Cultural leadership: we run workshops with Elders and Clan group representatives in Wadeye (NT) at the invitation of the Thamarrurr Development Corporation, a local governance group responsible for strengthening cultural leadership in order to address social issues
  • Justice Reinvestment: at the invitation of the Maranguka Aboriginal Group (Bourke, NSW) we help Maranguka community members develop relationships in support of the Justice Reinvestment program, which strives for a coordinated approach to youth justice issues

What does capacity building look like?

We work alongside Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory to:

  • establish and strengthen community governance structures
  • support Aboriginal peoples to better their situation and have more control over their lives, and
  • help communities identify areas for corporate, philanthropic and government engagement.

Our work came about when Eastern and Central Arrernte (pronounced UH-rrahn-da) leaders engaged the local Catholic church network, seeking support to establish a capacity building centre where culturally appropriate responses to contemporary life issues could evolve.

We were approached to assist, and developed our capacity building program in response. Here’s how it works.

Santa Teresa community, NT, by Jesuit Social Services

1. We work according to sustainable community development principles

We believe Aboriginal peoples should have a real say in what services they need and how they’re delivered.

Our capacity building work applies a sustainable community development approach, which ensures services and activities are community-led.

Our approach aims to:

  • work at the family group level
  • embrace the importance of culture, family and sovereignty
  • maintain strong, respectful relationships and reciprocity in partnerships
  • build on the strengths of Indigenous people, families and communities

2. We only work with communities that invite us to work with them

Our capacity building work with Aboriginal peoples is based on relationships of trust. We work with communities by invitation – we don’t impose ourselves, but rather listen, develop relationships and support community decisions.

Through local family and community meetings, we assess local needs, identify local priorities and support communities to develop plans to address them. We also help to establish and strengthen community governance structures.

3. We facilitate communities’ engagement with stakeholders

We work with communities to identify areas for corporate, philanthropic and government engagement.

Horse Program at Santa Teresa, NT, by Jesuit Social Services