The benefits of a life-first employment program for Indigenous Australian families: Implications for ‘Closing the Gap’

Lynsey Brown, Katy Osborne, Ruth Walker, Megan Moskos, Linda Isherwood, Katherine Patel, Fran Baum, Debra King


There are significant and enduring inequities in education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In taking a ‘life-first’ approach to service provision the Building Family Opportunities Program (BFO) was able to successfully increase Indigenous Australians’ engagement with education and employment in South Australia. The evaluation of the BFO included quantitative administrative and survey data for 110 Indigenous families collected over a three year period, and qualitative data from interviews with 13 Indigenous jobseekers and focus groups with 24 case managers. Quantitative data revealed that similar proportions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous jobseekers achieved positive education/training and employment outcomes as a result of the program. Qualitative data were able to identify the strengths of this program as perceived by Indigenous families and case managers, including the practical and socio-emotional support offered to whole families, using a strengths-based, life-first approach. In the context of broader education and employment disadvantages experienced by Indigenous Australians, these results are significant and illustrate key lessons which can inform future policy and service delivery initiatives aiming to close the gap.

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