COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT is a traditional process that ‘Indigenous people in Australia have participated in for thousands of years’ (Sherwood 1999). According to Sherwood, an Indigenous community development model needs to incorporate understanding, commitment, collaboration, partnership and respect. To do this necessitates working together with Aboriginal people to find solutions to their issues and develop programs and services that will work for their community.
In this chapter we refer to community development as a way of strengthening and prioritising the actions and views of a community through an empowering process that builds each member's capacity to achieve their goals. Founded on human rights, this process facilitates social inclusion, equality and respect for diversity and for specific skills and knowledge (Craig 2011; Sherwood 1999).
In their discussion on community development in Aboriginal communities, Burchill, Higgins, Ramsamy and Taylor (2006) argue that it is necessary to understand the role and impact of colonisation, pointing out how the ‘past resonates into the present’ (p. 51). They also emphasise the presence of intergenerational trauma (see Chapter 7), both at the individual and collective level, which adds another layer of complexity to community development that is not often addressed by government-funded Western models.
One of the main criticisms of Western community development is the limitations of government-funded programs. Critical of the role of government programs, Craig (2011) argues that the ‘warm rhetoric of community control’ (p. 8) is often contradicted by what governments do. He says that too often government-funded community development programs are quickly closed when empowered communities begin to challenge government objectives and outcomes in place of their identified goals and aspirations.
Currently many mainstream models of community development tend to draw heavily on Western approaches that are often imposed in ways that are inappropriate and ineffective (Sherwood 1999) rather than making use of a combined effort to integrate Western and Aboriginal models. Aboriginal approaches emphasise the importance of including and empowering people in decisions to shape and change their communities. According to Patrick Dodson (cited in Burchill, Higgins, Ramsamy & Taylor 2006), in order for change to occur ‘it's a two way street, [and] so far it's only been one way’ (p. 7).