This is the full report about a combined learning and research project that explored the challenges facing managers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services. The project was based on the idea that health service managers are the ones who know their own practice best, and that their stories can tell us a lot about what works and what needs to work better. A summary report is also available.
Management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services is vested in community-controlled organisations that occupy contested ground in the health system. This study aimed to document the challenges faced by managers in this context, and the strengths and strategies they use to address them, while also meeting the ethical obligation of providing a direct substantive benefit to participants and communities. In partnership with the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, we worked with a group of senior managers in community-controlled organisations in Queensland. The project used an integrated action learning and research method, in which participants were engaged as co-researchers with a small project team. They participated in a year-long learning program (with an option for academic credit) and presented current management challenges using learning set method. Documentation of the management challenges in the form of stories (and the participants' reporting back at subsequent workshops on action taken and results) constitute the data. Data gathered from a concurrent mainstream learning set are used for comparison. Workforce and people management issues, along with managing the roles of communities and boards and limits on organisational capacity were the most widespread challenges. There was much in common with the mainstream learning set, but the Aboriginal managers seem to have faced additional challenges (and drawn additional resources) from the closeness of their relationships with boards and communities.
There is a summary report for this project (PDF 4pp).