Closing the Gap Outcomes and Evidence Fund
The Closing the Gap Outcomes and Evidence Fund (the Fund) was announced in the Closing the Gap Commonwealth Implementation Plan, released on 5 August 2021. The Fund is one of the department’s 4 Closing the Gap measures.
The Fund will provide up to $38.6 million in funding from 2021-2024. Funded projects will contribute to Closing the Gap:
- Target 12: By 2031, reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent
- Target 13: By 2031, the rate of all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is reduced at least by 50%, as progress towards zero.
Projects will also support First Nations people with disability.
Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) will deliver projects designed in partnership with their communities. Projects will provide services to people experiencing (or at risk of) child removal or family violence.
Projects will be funded through an outcomes-based funding model. An aim of the program is to test whether an outcomes-based funding model can lead to:
- Better outcomes for service recipients
- Improved funding allocations
- Greater incentives and rewards for achieving outcomes.
Project reporting and evaluation methods will be designed with ACCOs and their communities. These will align with First Nations ways of measuring and communicating success. The design of the Fund reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to Closing the Gap Priority Reforms:
- One (Formal Partnerships and Shared Decision Making)
- Two (Building the Community-Controlled Sector)
- Three (Transforming Government Organisations)
- Four (Shared Access to Data and Information at a Regional Level).
Design and implementation
The department is co-designing and implementing the Fund in 3 stages.
The department established an Expert Panel comprising representatives of the Coalition of Peaks. The department worked with the Expert Panel to decide the Fund's:
- Outcomes and objectives
- Eligible activities
- Eligible organisation types
- Eligible locations
- Reporting and evaluation methods.
Community Panels are being established in project locations. Community Panels will consist of First Nations people and organisations with:
- Strong connections in their community
- Expertise in Targets 12 and 13
- Strong knowledge of their local Community-Controlled service system.
Community Panels will advise on their community's needs and interest in undertaking projects. They will also provide advice on ACCOs in their community with the relevant skills and experience to deliver projects.
Selected ACCOs will be invited to submit proposals. Suitable ACCOs will then be invited to take part in co-design processes, along with their Community Panel. The aim of these processes is to develop proposals into projects which would achieve outcomes and represent value for money.
Selected ACCOs will be invited to submit revised proposals. Suitable ACCOs will then be invited to deliver their projects in their communities.
Evaluators will work with ACCOs and Community Panels on project and program evaluations. The evaluations will assess:
- How the program and projects contribute to progress towards Targets 12 and 13
- Whether programs are being implemented as intended, and outcomes are being achieved
- The suitability of the outcomes-based funding model.
The evaluators will have experience in working with First Nations people and communities. They will also support service providers to build data and evaluation capability.
ACCOs will be funded through funding models comprising:
- Fixed payments, covering full service delivery costs, including wages and reporting
- Outcomes-based payments, providing incentive and reward for meeting mutually agreed outcomes targets.
Outcomes targets and funding models will be co-designed with ACCOs. They will take into account:
- Service provider experience, cash flow, and past performance
- What outcomes are achievable with the time and funding available
- What ACCOs can control and influence.
The Expert Panel recommended that the department target:
- High need locations with regard to Targets 12 and 13
- A mix of all States and Territories, and a mix of urban, regional, and remote areas.
The department is finalising locations in partnership with the Expert Panel and communities. Projects will be co-designed and delivered in a phased approach with approximately 4 projects per phase. Timing will depend on community readiness and capacity to undertake projects.
For more information about the Fund, please contact OutcomesTrialsandEvidence@dss.gov.au.