Government agencies continuously gather information about the contact Aboriginal people have with the health, housing, education, child protection and criminal justice systems in Walgett. However, the Dharriwaa Elders Group has been deeply concerned for some time that the community doesn’t have access to this data or control over what is gathered and how it is used.

Yuwaya Ngarra-li had a particular focus in 2021 on increasing the understanding and strategic use of quantitative data to inform our planning, evaluation and progress towards long-term aims. While our partnership has had from its inception a strong emphasis on qualitative data and community data gathering to ensure Aboriginal community voices, perspectives and metrics in our work, we also understand the value and limitations of quantitative data gathered and held by government agencies.

Dr Rebecca Reeve is a quantitative researcher working in the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership who is working closely with DEG, in particular with DEG Secretary Virginia Robinson. The focus on access to and analysis of existing quantitative data relating to Walgett and building our own linked administrative dataset serves all Yuwaya Ngarra-li’s long-term goals but in particular, the goal to redirect government funding towards strengths-based, holistic, community-led initiatives.

A core part of the work of the Yuwaya Ngarra-li Research and Evaluation team at UNSW is advocacy for community access to and validation of government data, on feeding back data to community and building capability to understand, interrogate and use data for community priorities and systems change. Underpinned by Yuwaya Ngarra-li’s core principles, we have developed a Data Linkage Protocol to guide the development of a linked administrative dataset through an iterative process of sharing knowledge, interpretation and decision-making between the Research and Evaluation team and the DEG led by Virginia Robinson.

Building on analysis of publicly available aggregated data, we have been working with the DEG and other stakeholders to identify ways to secure and analyse quantitative data to gain a deeper understanding of factors affecting Aboriginal young people’s contact with the criminal justice system and to evaluate the impact of Yuwaya Ngarra-li’s youth diversion program. As the project develops it will provide evidence to assist the DEG in driving change to improve outcomes for young people in Walgett.