Karla Brady, CEO of Inala Wangarra said, “I think Government and Society in general needs to change their view on Indigenous people because we are always measured at a deficit.  People should look at Indigenous people through the lense of their strength and resilience.

“I speak often about the deficit rule and ‘close the gap’ and that media are only going to report on how we haven’t reached the right mortality or school attendance rate.  When you only looking at a situation from a perspective of deficit you miss opportunities because you’ve already under-estimated the people at the heart of the situation and you are always going to look at Indigenous people as being deficient rather than looking at their strengths.  

“I talk about the environmental landscape of Inala and how it always positions the community at a deficit.  When a child grows up in our community what they see are the shiny new buildings; Centrelink, Police Station, Health Centre, Magistrates Court are all our new buildings.  So automatically, a child sees themselves as a consumer of  social services.  When you go to our local shopping centre there is only Woolworths or Aldi so a child can’t get an after-school job unless it’s through ones of those two shops.  All the other local shops are parole and probation, employment agencies.

A Jarjum Activity Pack delivery – A new Inala
Wangarra program connecting community during COVID-19
(Image shared with permission of Inala Wangarra)

“Even, walking through Inala’s Kev Hooper Park, there is a 10,000 steps walk with signs featuring nearby landmarks; 1000 steps to Centrelink or 1000 steps to Police station. That’s what your child grows up seeing or turns on the news and sees ‘stolen car from Inala’ or Inala is the most vulnerable community in Brisbane. It’s much easier to get on Centrelink than an after -school job or post-school job.  So straight away they are already seeing themselves as a consumer of social services and then you come in with your deficit lense.

“A lot of community development now falls under larger NGOs funded and managed on a regional basis. They don’t necessarily employ local people, if  you do, you change the economic status of a community.   Indigenous people also take a long time to develop trust and relationships with new people and if they are dealing with organisations that are run regionally without local people, they don’t know the community. Indigenous people then aren’t going to visit staff or engage with bigger organisations.

“We have eleven job search agencies in our community yet the Indigenous unemployment rate is 32% so something isn’t working.

“An Aboriginal kid may not have any role models in their life who are working and then has to try and venture out of the community to the unknown to find a job but they don’t know what that looks like and even transport in and out of Inala is difficult. The bus service is unreliable and not many can drive.  Nationally, only 13% of eligible Indigenous people take up a drivers licence compared to 89% of non-Indigenous people.

“If they have a license they may not have a car to drive or have money to run a car. Yet the community is only 11km from the city so why aren’t our people getting jobs?” Karla Brady said.

Inala Wangarra have recently approached researchers from UQ to look at the impact of the siloing of services of Indigenous organisations and to get support to research what is a sustainable and good operational model for community development organisations like Inala Wangarra.

IW provides 10 different services currently under 72 different funding agreements that all need to be reported on but have no operational funding to pay rent or electricity or ongoing funding for the CEO or Financial Officer’s salaries.  The quantity of services and programs IW provides also means producing about  177 reports each year or one report every two working days.

“We really need to look at the Indigenous issue with a different lense, the perspective you bring to something is what you see,” Karla Brady said.

To support Inala Wangarra, follow their journey on Facebook and see the depth and breadth of the services and programs they provide in connecting Indigenous people to each other and culture.  By following you can also be aware of how they move to strategically evolve their operational model to manage the challenges they face.



Note: On advice from Inala Wangarra, within this story, there is frequent use of the term ‘Indigenous’ to describe both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a broad category of identity. It is acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise of two culturally distinctive groups and the use of the term ‘Indigenous’ is primarily to avoid repeating the more accurate but longer title.

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