The project aimed to generate new options and approaches to addressing implementation issues and cumbersome policy processes in program and systems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health care. It engaged a group of senior representatives of the main stakeholders in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health field (drawn from policy, practice, community and academic sectors) in a short series of what might be considered ‘dangerous conversations’, each one conducted over two days, with an eminent chair and expert facilitators, backed up by discussion papers produced for and/or by the group. The method is informed by the Harvard Executive Sessions Model, which seeks to generate new policy and program options for addressing intractable social policy problems, and has a successful track record particularly in the area of justice policy and programs.

We used stewardship to refer to the responsibilities of governments, public sector agencies, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector and health institutions to sustain and develop the health system through their decision making, accountabilities and leadership (which underpins the negotiation and implementation of effective policy and programs). Our premise is that the characteristics of this stewardship, and the relationships among those responsible, is one of the factors which impacts on the efficacy of policy implementation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

This project approached intractable policy problems of relevance to current agendas; used methods that enable participants to bring underlying assumptions to the surface for discussion and analysis; and provided a safe space in which disagreement and debate as well as deep dialogue and reflection are harnessed to generate new approaches.

The project:

  • Recruited and engaged a group of senior stakeholders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy and programs who as a group bring real influence and sufficient difference in perspective and experience to generate creative tension and to challenge conventional wisdom.
  • Conducted two dialogue sessions convened by an independent chair, facilitated professionally and supported with the capacity to produce policy papers arising from the dialogues.
  • Will publish a series of policy papers addressing the fundamental problems of policy and program implementation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Project recommendations further work on primary family care, stewardship and reciprocal accountability and early childhood (see report).

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.