8.7 Indigenous people
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can often face particular challenges in accessing services, especially if they live in remote areas.
The department’s foundation for service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers consists of:
- the Indigenous Servicing Strategy 2018–22 (ISS), which guides the department’s approach to service delivery
- Indigenous Service Officers (ISOs), who are specialists in service delivery for Indigenous people
- service specialists in remote areas
- Indigenous interpreter services.
In planning services for Indigenous customers, the department is advised by the National Indigenous Coalition (NIC), which is the department’s peak strategic and advisory forum on the effective delivery of payments and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The NIC provides opportunities for the department’s Indigenous servicing network to engage with business areas across the department on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, communities and employees.
The department manages the Australian Government Indigenous Programs & Policy Locations (AGIL) dataset, which is the government’s authoritative source of data on Indigenous locations.
Indigenous Servicing Strategy
The ISS outlines the department’s commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by continuing its focus on effective service delivery. The ISS provides clear direction to all departmental staff who design and deliver services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The ISS draws on whole‑of‑government priorities and has three key themes:
- healthy and safe families and communities
- digital capability
- education and employment outcomes.
Each theme has areas of focus, with corresponding measures and targets.
The ISS has introduced a set of Indigenous Service Design Standards to guide the way the department designs and delivers services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These provide assurances when there are new, changed or targeted projects relating to service delivery changes and ensure that cultural best practice is applied.
The ISS aligns with and supports the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2018–22 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees Strategy 2018–22.
Indigenous servicing specialists
ISOs support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities to connect with the department’s payments, services and programs.
ISOs help the department to provide more targeted, supported assistance to Indigenous customers. ISOs work through their established stakeholder and community relationships to help to address operational and strategic service delivery issues and identify customer and community service gaps and trends.
As at 30 June 2019, there were 63 ISOs, compared with 69 as at 30 June 2018.
Remote Servicing Model and services provision
The department’s Remote Servicing Model responds to the unique challenges people face living in remote areas.
As part of the model, services are provided through:
- Service Centres
- remote Service Centres
- Access Points
- online options
- remote servicing teams
- place‑based services supported by an integrated remote smart centre to provide phone and claims‑processing services.
The department engages directly with people living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver services that are culturally appropriate, effective and empowering.
The department has partnerships with other Commonwealth departments and agencies and state, territory and local governments to deliver services in remote areas.
Bringing rural and remote customers online
Customers in regional and remote communities have told us they want to take advantage of the department’s online services. We understand they need access to a good internet connection, and the same modern devices they would find in our service centres in larger towns and cities.
Through the Remote ICT Capability Enhancement project, the department has delivered that connectivity and equipment to 590 Agents and Access Points in regional and remote sites.
Our most isolated customers can now upload documents, connect to free Wi-Fi, and log on using self service terminals in locations all across Australia.
The feedback we’ve received demonstrates that a high-quality digital service can significantly improve the customer experience.
“I used the Wi-Fi when I needed to do a resume,” said one customer in remote Queensland. An agent in remote Western Australia said, “We get a lot of elderly people coming into the office; they are showing more interest in the computers and they are willing to learn”. “I always help them to download the Centrelink Express App, it’s easier for customers” said a Queensland Agent.
Our department is leading the way through our commitment to consistent and equitable digital service across Australia, and helping to bring our communities online.
Remote servicing teams
Remote servicing teams regularly visit remote communities to provide departmental services. Remote servicing staff can proactively engage customers through community engagement activities.
The department recruits local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to work in remote servicing teams wherever possible. Staff from remote communities are more likely to speak local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages and understand local customs, traditions and relationships. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff can also act as role models for young people through their participation in remote communities.
Indigenous interpreting services
There are over 120 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. These languages have a vital cultural role in linking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to their history, spirituality and rites through story and song.
When Indigenous Australians interact with the department, the department offers an Indigenous language interpreter as required. These services are mainly supplied by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) in the Northern Territory and by Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia in Western Australia. The department is the largest Australian Government user of both services.
In 2018–19 the department:
- made over 3,000 calls to the AIS on‑demand telephone interpreting service
- provided over 900 hours of face‑to‑face interpreter services in Service Centres.
The department demonstrated its commitment to supporting the development and growth of the Indigenous interpreting sector by seconding a staff member to the AIS—the industry leader in the Indigenous interpreting sector.
National Indigenous Coalition
The NIC is the department’s peak strategic and advisory forum on the effective delivery of payments and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The NIC provides opportunities for the department’s Indigenous servicing network to engage with business areas on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and staff.
Throughout 2018‑19 the department held two NIC conferences (November 2018 and May 2019).
Providing spatial services for government and community
Indigenous people can face challenges in accessing services, especially if they live in remote areas.
The department’s approach to service delivery for Indigenous customers consists of:
- the ISS, which guides our approach to service delivery
- ISOs, who are specialists in service delivery for Indigenous people
- Indigenous interpreter services.
The department uses the AGIL dataset, which is the government’s authoritative source of data on Indigenous locations. The dataset is designed to support the accurate positioning, consistent reporting and effective delivery of Australian Government programs and services to Indigenous customers.
In 2018–19, the AGIL dataset was viewed 458 times and downloaded 447 times. This is a decrease from 2017–18, where the AGIL dataset was viewed 519 times and downloaded 1,066 times.