Currently, a lot of what passes as consultation with community people is actually about persuading them to agree to decisions that have already been taken. This is tokenism. To ensure that sort of consultation doesn’t occur, the Walk Together Design advocates that the decision-making process at the outset, and for some period, is facilitated to ensure the process is properly shared.
Governments at all levels have always found difficulty working and walking in partnership with Indigenous people. The history of government strategies in Indigenous affairs has generally demonstrated control via policy, or an attempt, often subconsciously, to assimilate Indigenous people.
Businesses generally do not view Indigenous people and their well-being as core business, which it isn’t. So their contributions are generally, directed by government legislation or policy for example, Indigenous employment targets and funding made as percentage of income to traditional owners. And service organisations are driven by government or business requirements in terms of meeting compliance requirements for contributions to the organisations.
The Community-Initiated principle, therefore, is that each community or entity to be involved in a change process must be given the chance to understand the purpose and process of a desired change, and either elect to participate or decide what will need to alter so it wants to participate. And it is made clear at the same time that partnerships are crucial in initiate change: not that Indigenous people people must walk alone. Anything else makes a mockery of the Walk Together Philosophy of Mutual Ways.
An Aboriginal man from the Kimberley, Western Australia some two decades ago, told us, “You want a partnership with us, start with one: don’t try to finish with one.” So many of the principles that follow.
Community-Initiated in the list of eight will have no chance of being effective unless the first is undertaken sincerely, with the view it will be continued for the duration of the Design process.
Imagine the difficulties with the remaining principles, such as Two-Way or Partnerships, if Community-Initiated were not part of the process.