PARTICIPATORY PLANNING APPROACH INCLUDING MERI PLAN

CLIENT: Yalata Land Management and AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT (now Environment Programmes Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet)

THE NEED

Yalata is a remote Indigenous community surrounded by an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). In 2010 EVOLVE was engaged to use participatory planning approaches to work with Yalata Land Management and the Community over one year to develop a technical information document (Resource Kit), a five to seven year PoM including a program logic and MERI plan. (Long Yarn), and a plain English summary/illustrated version for countrymen (Short Yarn).

THE SOLUTION

The project involved a number of challenges and opportunities including:

  • Lack of awareness within the community of the IPA and Yalata Land Management, and re-establishing a strong connection between community and Caring for Country so that the resultant plan ‘belonged’ to the community.
  • ‘Humbug’ attitude in community from over-consultation.
  • Unique history of Yalata (a displaced community resulting from atomic bomb testing, Maralinga lands and closure of Oldea Mission, and community movement between Yalata and Oak Valley).
  • The need to identify social and community benefits alongside traditional land management as key outcomes.

Carla Rogers was the lead consultant responsible for all project work including on-ground consultation.  EVOLVE worked with the Yalata Land Management Team, Yalata Council Incorporated, IPA Stakeholder Group, and the general community. Substantial time was spent at the schools, health centres, women’s and men’s centres and on Country with elders.

EVOLVE used a comprehensive participatory planning approach drawing on a range of tools to involve all from community and key stakeholders. This involved:

  • An analysis of what is working and building on this. (A solution focussed approach and strength based planning is inherent to most of EVOLVE’s approaches.)
  • Yarning in response to the key themes (through camps, Camel Burger BBQs, getting out on Country and spending time in the men’s and women’s centres). Yarns were captured through story, song, dance, art.
  • Working with the health centre, education centres, community centres, clan and family groups, CDEP participants, sporting groups, community leaders and Elders, service providers, government at all levels, Yalata Council and schools, recognising the strong nexus between Health of Country and Community and developing joint opportunities to explore these.

 The project included the development of a MERI plan (Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Improvement) applying Program Logic. EVOLVE was able to take these complex concepts and through visuals, yarning and other participatory planning approaches, present them in way that worked for the Yalata community. Action Learning and action research principles underpinned this approach and also the MERI plan. The MERI plan is progressive and has the Yalata Land Management and Yalata Council focussing on one big action at a time.

 THE RESULTS

The approach and  MERI plan included as an example of best practice.

“Yalata IPA Draft Healthy Country Plan—practical approach with limited time/money Yalata IPA plan consultant Carla Rogers put a very good plan together in a relative short time frame by working closely with lots of Yalata organisations and people”

(Our Country Our Way: Guidelines for Australian Indigenous Protected Area Management Plans, CSIRO, Population and Communities).

At the Department’s invitation (DESEWPC), Carla is participating in a working group examining best practice for management of Indigenous Protected Areas and performance story evaluation criteria. IPA Stories are a new project feedback tool that simply captures information (at the project level) through telling stories about some of the changes that have resulted from the Indigenous Protected Areas Programme.

“As the Yalata Land Management Co-ordinator, I enjoyed working closely with Carla Rogers of EVOLVE during 2010, to develop the Healthy Country Planning Kit. Carla had a great grasp on the key and unique challenges facing the Yalata community; and went the extra mile to establish connections throughout the community, including the School, CDEP, Health Centres and Women’s and Men’s Centres. Her approach was highly flexible and she adapted to changing circumstances and challenges with the aim of making things work on the ground for community. Carla was passionate about the link between Healthy Country and Healthy Community and placed the community as central to the plan. A highlight of our time working together was getting out on Country with the Elders, hearing their stories and songs. The planning package itself is practical, relevant, inspiring and easy to read and use for a range of people. One of our aims was that the plan belonged to the community, and this has been achieved, with the Yalata Council happy with the outcomes. Carla has maintained an interest in assisting with and supporting the ongoing implementation of the plan, including monitoring and evaluation, beyond her formal contractual obligations. I would highly recommend working with EVOLVE in any remote Indigenous Community”.

Allesandro Madonna, YLM, 2011

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