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How an Indigenous consultancy works together with governments, businesses and communities to close the gap

Arcing along Tasmania’s north-eastern coast lies the Bay of Fires. Famed internationally for its delicate blend of white sand, blue water and colourful granite boulders, it gained its name from the countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fires spotted by European colonists in 1773.

Indigenous Consultancy

More than two centuries on, a small group is helping visitors get to know the Bay of Fires the way their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors did.

The wukalina walk, named for the First Peoples name for nearby Mt William, is a four-day Aboriginal-owned and operated trek, taking small groups of visitors through largely pristine conservation areas.

The walk, which is led by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guides, gives visitors the opportunity to eat traditional foods like mutton birds and interact with local Elders and craftspeople.

It is the brainchild of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT), who spent eight years fighting to turn the project into a reality.

In its corner for that fight was PwC’s Indigenous Consulting (PIC).

Image source: Rob Burnett Images

Community owned and led

Led by Djab Wurrung/Gunditjmara woman Jodie Sizer and Wiradjuri man Gavin Brown, PwC’s Indigenous Consulting is majority-owned and staffed by First Nations’ Australians. PIC brings together deep cultural insight with the leading professional capabilities of PwC.

PIC worked closely with the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT) and other stakeholders to prepare a business case for the wukalina walk that demonstrated it could produce up to $1 million per season. PIC also helped facilitate discussions between Elders and the state and federal governments.

“We were able to have the Elders take the stakeholders through their story about how important the trek was to their community and helped them to secure $2.5 million in funding,” Mrs Sizer says.

“It’s now an operating venture that employs people and is benefiting the local community.”

Palawa Elder Aunty Sharon Holbrook says the venture provides financial support for local Elders as well as employment opportunities for younger generations.

It also offers something much deeper – a way to connect with a lost world.

“They come alive on country,” she says, referring to the walk’s younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guides, including her grandson who worked at wukalina in a previous season.

“My grandson was very shy but when he got out on country ... he was just unbelievable.”

Since 2013, PIC has worked on over 1,000 projects across 680 communities. Each time, the focus has been ensuring all the work they do is informed by the community they are trying to serve.

According to Mrs Sizer, that’s simply best practice. It also goes a long way to explaining the success PIC has had in breaking the mould of traditional government-community interactions.

“It’s always valuable to have people being part of developing a solution rather than having a solution imposed on people. That’s universally true.”

“We are a conduit between government and community.”

Gavin Brown, PIC Co-CEO

While there is a long history of top-down attempts to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, there is often a disconnect between governments and communities when it comes to discussing issues and solutions.

“Often there is a lack of understanding from the government side about what the community actually wants,” Mr Brown says.

“And from the community side, it’s often difficult to see the constraints that people in government are working with.”

Since 2008, for example, a coalition of Australian governments has been working to raise the quality of life for Australia's First Peoples through the Closing the Gap Initiative.

Despite spending well over $130 billion on programs targeted at Closing the Gap’s key metrics, the effort is achieving less than a third of its stated goals.

That’s where PIC offers a different path.

“We act as a translator between government and community,” Mr Brown says.  “So there is an effort to achieve a shared understanding before moving forward towards solutions and delivery.”

PIC works with government and community on programs of all sizes affecting Australia’s First Peoples across many sectors including education, child protection, health, economic development and justice.

Mrs Sizer says PIC is a great example of how the consulting expertise of PwC works together with the local knowledge from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to address important issues.

“Everyone in PIC is absolutely committed to our purpose of creating meaningful change,” she says.

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“Everyone in PIC is absolutely committed to our purpose of creating meaningful change.”

Jodie Sizer, PIC Co-CEO

A grassroots approach

One example of this community-led approach are PIC’s Co-Design Sessions, where communities and stakeholders such as government departments, NGOs and employers come together to form a common understanding, and rapidly prototype potential solutions.

The Co-Design Sessions (‘Design Jams’) are designed to be a safe environment so that people feel that they can speak openly and freely.

It’s all about the future, the future of their communities and the future of children and families.

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Contact us

Jodie Sizer

Jodie Sizer

Owner & Co-CEO, PwC's Indigenous Consulting

Tel: 1800 992 533

Gavin Brown

Gavin Brown

CEO, PwC's Indigenous Consulting

Tel: 1800 992 533

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