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Working the Territory – The Northern Territory, that is!

posted 6 Mar 2019, 16:31 by Michelle Stewart   [ updated 6 Mar 2019, 19:14 ]

Big cities and off the beaten track

At The Leading Partnership we partner with a broad range of clients in the fields of strategy, governance and digital transformation. We enjoy the diversity of the assignments we undertake and the wonderful client relationships we’ve developed - some of which span long periods of time. Australia is a highly urbanised country. Most people live in 4 or 5 major capital cities. Although based in Sydney, over the years The Leading Partnership has undertaken several interesting projects in the Northern Territory – widely referred to as “The NT” - a challenge we enjoy. For the information of non-Australians, and to remind locals, the Territory is big, really big. Its landmass covers 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 square miles). It is sparsely populated, with a total headcount of only 250,000. The Territory has a rich, diverse and still vibrant 40,000-year history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait settlement. Approximately 25% Territorians are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

So, what have we been doing there? The answer is, quite a bit!

Large NGO - board review and strategic planning

For several years now we have been working with one of the NT’s largest human services NGOs. It must be noted that the service delivery and coordination challenges across such a vast, yet thinly populated geographical area are significant. The climate is hot and dry and in desert areas and hot, humid and tropical along the northern coast. In Arnhem Land, some communities are cut off for weeks every year during the wet season, known in the North as “The Wet”. It can be difficult to attract skilled employees and to keep staff more than 2-3 years. This results in a steady turn over of public servants of all kinds, for example, and difficulties in attracting technical, professional and trades folk across the board. Local organisations are resilient, however, and well used to adapting and changing in response to a whole range of quite unique “realities”. We conducted a facilitated board review for this organisation and have also supported them in completing their most recent 5-year strategy. We were impressed both with their commitment to equity and excellence in service of their clients, and their demonstrable commitment to strong governance and management.

AMRRIC,  “The Dog People” – a 10-year journey

Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities, known widely as “AMRRIC” or “The Dog People”, is a specialised NGO primarily funded by the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Its purpose is to deliver, and facilitate the delivery of, animal health programs, mostly involving dogs, across the NT and the broader “Top End” of Australia. Speaking broadly, the Top End can be defined as including the Kimberly, Torres Strait Islands, Northern South Australia and parts of Queensland. Head quartered in Darwin, AMRRIC partners with remote Aboriginal Communities to ensure culturally appropriate veterinary and animal health and welfare educational programs are made available in remote communities. Dogs play a special part in the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Without veterinary care, dog, and more recently, cat populations can grow to an unmanageable size. This may result in the spread of disease and even injury to people. We have worked pro bono with AMRRIC for more than a decade supporting the board, the President and management through several strategic cycles. We have also volunteered in remote communities.

Strategic planning for a national volunteer NGO serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples

This organisation is not headquartered in the NT but operates offices in Darwin and Alice Springs. We were asked to partner with a senior Aboriginal consultant to work with the Board and Management in developing a new strategic plan. The process was held over three days in Alice Springs and was highly consultative. On the first day, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders aged from 17 to 75 years of age flew in from around Australia to spend a day “On Country” with the organisation’s board and management. On day two, the organisation’s Ambassadors and Board held a facilitated session. On day three the board worked with us to distil what they had heard and learned from the previous two days and from the detailed environmental scan undertaken in the lead up to the event. The outcome was a bold new strategic document to guide the development of the organisation over the years to come.

Remote Aboriginal health service - planning process

There are approximately 140 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) operating across urban, regional and remote Australia. They range from large multi-functional services employing several medical practitioners and providing a wide range of services, to small services which rely on Aboriginal Health Workers and/or nurses to provide the bulk of primary care services, often with a preventive, health education focus. The services form a network, but each is autonomous and independent both of one another and of government.

In 2018 and into 2019 we were engaged to support one of the most remote Aboriginal health services in Australia in developing a new strategic plan. This service operates several accredited GP clinics as well as providing mental health, public health, palliative and aged care services across a very large geographical area. Each community is  many hours drive, largely on dirt roads, from the nearest hospital.

This assignment involved visiting several communities, broad and deep engagement with health and administrative staff, extensive data analysis and benchmarking, while working closely with the Aboriginal Council which oversees all services including health.

What we’ve learned

There is more to Australia than Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra. We have learned a great deal from our commitment to work in rural and remote areas. We feel privileged to have been a part of so many projects conducted “off the beaten track”.

Philip Pogson FAICD and Stuart Jones GAICD, Directors, The Leading Partnership