Objective: To evaluate the first three years of a national program to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous youth in remote and regional Australia.
Methods: Combination of open inquiry and audit review involving investigation of process and outcomes, with a broad national overview supplemented by five in-depth case studies in diverse settings.
Results: Community development principles were applied at all 14 sites. There were many examples of collaborative, community-driven health promotion initiatives, with most progress observed where there were strong local partnerships. Within the range of activities, education sessions on alcohol and other drugs, mental health and violence were facilitated by program staff. There was a tension between community development and specific program delivery, with the balance reflecting the needs and capacity of individual sites, program staff expertise and contractual requirements.
Conclusions and implications: The main lessons concern program design and resourcing and ways of working. Program staff at each site learned to be not too ambitious, but to work consistently with the community, establishing partnerships and engaging and training community members. Community and stakeholder capacity enhancement should be regarded as core, and evaluation built in. Activities directed at youth must be engaging and effective, and integrated with other programs and services.