Evidence-Based Policy-Making in Canada – Benoit Gautier, CES/Circum  -  9.30 Monday, 14 Spt

This presentation will develop three points: first, that there is no such thing as evidence-based policy-making; second, that the Canadian infrastructure for evidence-based policy-making is complex; and third, that in the dynamic of policy-making, evidence is only a small part of the equation but there are factors that can increase the likelihood of evidence use.

North by Southeast: dynamics influencing the context for setting Northern Australia policies - John Stoney, CDU -10.50 Monday, 14 Spt

This session strives to explore - from the perspective of a southern-based adjunct - some of the dynamics that may influence policy infrastructure, capacity and context for northern Australia. The context for developing and implementing policy - and the capacity for doing so - can vary significantly across Australia due to a combination of factors and dynamics. These include some marked differences in location and geographical size, population and culture, economic activities and resources, number and scale of tertiary and non-government organisations, and the extent of local social and environmental issues. They in turn can be further influenced by the capacity of and interactions between various tiers of Government, particularly Australian and state/territory. Arguably the governance of the Northern Territory is more complicated by the greater role the Australian Government - based some 3,000km away - can & does sometimes choose to play in its Territories.

Relationship and knowledge infrastructure: a northern Australian example – Professor Harry Blagg, Associate Dean, Faculty of Law, UWA  -  11.10 Monday, 14 Spt

Evidence and policy infrastructure, i.e. the pre-existing elements required for evidence to be transformed into policy, is often conceptualised in terms of policies, structures and systems that support knowledge translation and utilisation in government and professional levels. However, success in Indigenous community evaluations may depend on two other types of infrastructure. A failure to recognise Aboriginal knowledges, and a lack of pre-existing trust relationships with Aboriginal authorities, vitiate research and evaluation in Aboriginal contexts. This brief presentation uses a recent case of FASD research, which resulted in an innovative concept for mobile justice courts, to demonstrate how the project succeeded in large part due to trust relationships built up over years, and also to a recognition and use of Aboriginal knowledges, without which the project would not have been able to succeed.

Nudges and pushes: A behaviourally informed Social Policy in Australia - Nick Biddle, ANU  -  13.30 Monday, 14 Spt

The behavioural sciences – broadly speaking, those disciplines that focus on the causes and consequences of human decision making – are increasingly showing the limitations of the ‘rational agent model’ or Homo Economicus. Rather than being completely rational or completely irrational, humans can better be described as predictably irrational, with known biases that impact on decision making. Our policy settings, however, are still based on more limiting and less realistic assumptions of human behaviour. This inevitably leads to policies that do not achieve their aims or that have unintended negative consequences. The aim of this session is to consider how we can better design and evaluate policy that builds on the latest science of how people actually behave in particular circumstances. ‘

Mind the gap in the north’: Theory and its use in framing questions - Kim Grey, CDU/PM&C  -  14.15 Monday, 14 Spt

The distance between evaluation and the disciplines such as social science is a gap that limits our understanding about the potential of programs to influence human behaviour in its social context. Options for responding to this challenge include better use of social science theory in various phases of evaluation – most especially up front, when we determine evaluation criteria and set our key evaluation questions. Three examples of evaluations are considered here in order to open up discussion of ways to frame better, more evaluative, consistent, comprehensive and pragmatic evaluation questions

Timely questions on substance use, including ‘ice’ - Alan Clough, James Cook University  -  14.30 Monday, 14 Spt

Few public health research interventions seek to document change in populations and foster change while the research is occurring. This presentation presents a case where timely questions on substance use have provided a potential four year window to address prevention and treatment options for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including ‘ice’, in remote Aboriginal communities. Although recent surveys have indicated growing disquiet among health professionals nationally about the use of ‘ice’ in some Indigenous communities, no clear evidence has appeared as yet for a feared general surge in its use. During 2013-14, when we interviewed key community leaders and service providers about alcohol controls in Queensland’s rural and remote Indigenous communities, a number also offered views about the use of amphetamine-type stimulants. In parallel surveys in eight rural and remote communities with participants recruited opportunistically, community residents provided their views about local drug use trends. Consistent with the information provided in interviews, 41% of participants asserted that new drugs were being used in their community, 11% indicating ATS and 6% nominating ‘ice’. As cannabis appeared to become endemic in around four years in both the NT and far north Queensland after a rapid rise from the late 1990s and early 2000s, facilitated by locally-embedded trafficking links with illicit drug suppliers outside communities, a similar four-year window of opportunity may therefore be all that is available to reduce the impacts of ‘ice’, if a demand for it emerges. Four requirements for effective prevention strategies and appropriate treatment approaches will be presented, and the need for monitoring highlighted.

Incarceration policies: new questions for policy makers – Hannah Payer, Emma Williams, CDU  -  15.15 Monday, 14 Spt

There have been many approaches used in developing incarceration policies, with multiple attempts over time to balance punitive, deterrent and rehabilitative concerns (see Freiburg 2005 for a brief Australian overview), including approaches such as ‘restorative justice’ (Blagg 2008). As Freiburg notes, economic rationalism has driven a number of modern incarceration policy developments. However, Abrams (2013) demonstrates that it is not easy to determine the costs and benefits of incarceration, balancing the rights of prisoners against those of victims or potential victims to achieve ‘right-sized’ justice solutions. It is even more challenging when the impact on offenders’ families and communities are costed. Nevertheless, this paper sets out reasons for why this impact needs to be factored into policy development; the potential for a gendered approach to incarceration policy is also raised. 


Vulnerable youth in northern Australia - Agnieszka Nelson, ANU  -  9.00 Tuesday, 15 Spt

Welfare reform and the long-term sustainability of the welfare system continues to be a centrepiece of the policy agenda across the developed world, including Australia. One population who are of particular concern are youth for whom transition from education to stable full-time employment has become increasingly challenging and protracted. In Australia, for example, in 2014, almost one in four of all 16 to 24 year olds relied on welfare as a main source of income. For Indigenous youth, the figure is even more stark, with over half of all 16 to 24 year olds relying on income support. Over 14 per cent of all young welfare recipients have been assessed as vulnerable— one in two of those for living with a disability, and one in four for homelessness. The remaining vulnerable youth consist of those who are recent migrants, those who have been exposed to domestic violence, those who were released from prison or those who have significant caring roles. But what happens if you live in a remote area of Australia like Darwin or the outback? How different are your changes of exiting income support from your counterparts who live in other states/territories in Australia?  Using Research and Evaluation administrative data from Department of Employment, I examine income support exits among youth at risk of social exclusion by their characteristics and types of vulnerability in the Northern Territory.

Data linkage – regulatory issues and options for use – John McKenzie, Menzies  -  10.00 Tuesday, 15 Spt

This presentation will describe a research partnership between Menzies, AMSANT (the peak body for Indigenous controlled health boards) and the NT government departments of Education, Health, and Children and Families. The project is linking de-identified health, education, child protection and police data on over 60,000 NT children. This enables researchers to study relationships and connections impossible to see until data from different sources are combined. The regulatory barriers that had to be overcome will be discussed, as well as the potential benefits of the project.   

The Statistics of Evidence - how counting matters - Stephen Horn, SSAI  -  10.50 Tuesday, 15 Spt

This presentation will demonstrate how statistics can meet the policy challenges of good government, but also how developments in government can challenge statistics. The language and techniques of statistics has evolved over the last three hundred years, alongside evolutions in philosophy of government and the opening of government to public scrutiny through democratic interventions, and more recently through participation by citizens in the process of devising and operationalising and reviewing government action. Discussion of the now abandoned COAG Reform agenda will highlight the opportunities and tensions between the policy and the data communities, and their collaboration/collision in the task of evaluation.

Volatile evaluands: Approaching evaluation in changing environments - Matthew Willis, CDU/AIC  -  13.30 Tuesday, 15 Spt

Social program interventions are developed in response to needs that arise in particular environmental contexts and are implemented in ways that respond to those contexts. An effective evaluation of a social intervention requires an understanding of the environment and context in which the intervention was developed and implemented. Yet during the course of an evaluation those environments can change in ways that impact on the implementation and even the aims of the intervention. Some areas of social intervention are particularly vulnerable to the influence of volatile environments and it is in these areas that effective evaluations are perhaps most needed. This session will explore how evaluators can identify and respond to these changes while maintaining the integrity of the evaluation process.

Context and the use of evidence in policy: A realist perspective - Gill Westhorp, CDU/Community Matters  -  14.00 Tuesday, 15 Spt

There has been significant research into the factors that affect the use of research and evaluation evidence in policy, or for central-level decisions about programs. This presentation will present some of the models that have been developed and consider them from two perspectives. Firstly, the models themselves will be considered from a realist perspective: what do and don’t they tell us about context, mechanisms and outcomes (where outcomes relate to the use of evidence)? Secondly, what are the specific implications for developing an understanding of improving the use of evidence in ‘northern contexts’?


Date: Sep 14, 2015 to Sep 15, 2015

Time: 9:00am to 5:00pm

Contact person: Katrina Britnell, Partnerships Coordinator, Northern Institute
T: 08 8946 6838

Location: Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University - Casuarina Campus, Yellow Building 1, Level 2, Room 48 (Savanna Room)



Monday, September 14, 2015 - 09:00 to Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 17:00