Conference support grants for
emerging Indigenous evaluators


Doyen Radcliffe, Indigenous Community Volunteers

The support provided by AES to attend the Brisbane conference has been invaluable in building my knowledge and capacity to better understanding in capturing change and impact in Indigenous Communities that Indigenous Community Volunteers works with. The participatory approaches to community development and evaluation reinforces my belief that by working with Indigenous communities we are empowering Indigenous communities to create a better future based on their terms and agenda. The conference has provided me with a wide range of tools that I am currently using in my work. I strongly recommend it to other Indigenous people working with Indigenous communities.

Christina Newport, Akairo Limited, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

... I have gained a greater understanding of what is going on in world of evaluation. I liked hearing about the different perspectives on developing evaluation as a discipline. Coming away with practical tools I can use but also being able to offer some ideas and thoughts with a level of confidence about what is possible in the way we carry out evaluation here in the Cook Islands and the way we can develop evaluation as a means to determining what works, why and what has been achieved.

Making connections with a range of people that I have been able to subsequently share resources with since the conference has also been a benefit.

Tiwi Islands/Palmerston Communities for Children team, Australia

'Thank you from the Tiwi Islands/Palmerston Communities for Children team for the opportunity to participate in the AES conference in Sydney. The experience for many in our team was one we would never have imagined being part of and one we will never forget!

'The conference was a great opportunity for us to share some insights into our lives and communities we live in, describe the ways we have been involved in evaluation and the benefits of this involvement. We all learnt how to present professionally and confidently and how to support one another throughout the conference.'

As we were a team of seven people, we each attended different sessions that we thought were most relevant to our community and/or our professional and personal development. This enabled us to share our learnings and exchange ideas with other team members at the end of each day. Another highlight was meeting and sharing stories with other conference participants. We particularly enjoyed meeting other indigenous people at the ARTD welcome drinks session.

Participating in the conference reinforced our belief that the participatory program evaluation approach that we're using is important to giving local people greater knowledge of what's happening in their community, allows the community to make decisions about programs, and has led to greater skills for our local evaluation team members. This has provided a new impetus for our evaluation in Palmerston and Tiwi Islands going forward.

The audience for the symposium we presented included the Australian Red Cross National Manager and Research and Evaluation manager, and staff of the program funding body, FaHCSIA. Positive support of our program and our evaluation approach was expressed by these participants, as well as other conference delegates. As a result, our team was invited to present at the Darwin Red Cross, Ways of Working – Innovation workshop, and the Red Cross National Conference in December 2011. In addition, the ARC has shared our learnings and experiences with other C4C Facilitating Partners and FaHCSIA.'

Jodie Robertson, Te Raukura Rangahau, New Zealand

'The AES conference in Sydney provided an opportunity for me to explore new ideas and reassert my commitment to working with indigenous communities.

The conference also provided me with an with opportunity to review and reaffirm my existing approaches to working indigenous communities. Furthermore, it opened my eyes to the possibility of working on evaluations of international aid programmes. I am very thankful for the opportunity that was given to me as a grant recipient to attend the conference.

Professor, Quantitative and Evaluative Research Methodologies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and past president (2011) of the American Evaluation Association, Jennifer Greene is an evaluation scholar-practitioner of over 30 years standing. She has authored hundreds of journal articles and book chapters and is a recognized thought leader in the field of social inquiry. Her research focuses on the intersections of social science and social policy and seeks to advance the theory and practice of alternative forms of evaluation, including qualitative, democratic and mixed methods evaluation approaches. Her current work emphasizes evaluation as a venue for democratizing dialogue about critical social and educational issues, with a focus on conceptualizing evaluation as a 'public good'.'

Carol Thomas, Independent Evaluator, Australia

'I was delighted to be given the opportunity to attend the conference in Wellington.

'I was able to meet other people involved in evaluations in Indigenous communities which has provided me with a far greater insight into the area than I had previously had.'

I have since been employed in an evaluation company and the tools received and networks made at the conference, are proving a great help to me. I look forward to learning more in the evaluation area. Attendance at the conference has been a great start for me.'

Dr Amohia Boulton, Whakauae Research Services, New Zealand

'I have recently begun working as a community evaluator in an iwi [Maori tribal] research unit after training in evaluation methodology in the late 1990s. Being awarded a conference grant in 2010 was therefore not only timely but also incredibly valuable in so many ways. Attending the conference provided the opportunity to meet with other indigenous researchers and evaluators; to participate in the indigenous forum; to network with new, and re-connect with old, colleagues; to hear advancements in the field of evaluation from some of Australasia's, and the world's, best evaluation practitioners; and to generally be inspired!

'I heartily recommend indigenous evaluators make the most of this fantastic opportunity for learning and development.'

Mili Burnette, Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

'I received an AES support grant in 2009 to attend the Canberra Conference. At the time I was a student about to embark on my Masters in Public Health using a case study as my methodology. Also I had been working on evaluation projects through my work. The support grant covered all my expenses enabling me to attend the whole conference including the workshops.

Overall, the experience gave me the opportunity to learn about evaluation and how it is used across a number of disciplines. As I was new to evaluation, it was good to meet experienced evaluators and to hear about their experiences.

'The atmosphere was very welcoming and the committee members very friendly. I would encourage those who are new to evaluation and have a particular interest in working with indigenous communities to apply for this grant. It was a very informative conference and well organised.'

Salend Kumar, Fiji Islands, PhD student, The University of Queensland

'The AES Conference Support Grants is a very generous gesture on the part of the organisation and I am grateful that I was awarded a grant in 2010. I wanted to attend the 2010 conference as evaluation is part of my PhD study and the grant made it possible. I realised that the AES Conference offers an opportunity to listen, share and interact with scholars and experts from diverse fields but talking on one subject: "evaluation".

The conference provided an opportunity for me to learn from the real life application of methods, tools and approaches in the area of evaluation; it enabled me to reflect on my own practices and helped me to identify areas of improvement so that I can perform better. I see the AES Conference as one of the key means to build capacity in evaluation. The conference also enabled me to develop my personal network with experts and to meet with people whose work I have previously read in books and journal articles.

'I encourage other Pacific Islanders to apply for this grant to gain knowledge and experience from the conference as this will enable us to communicate better on evaluation in the Pacific Island Countries.'

Kirimatao Paipa, Kia Maia Ltd, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand

'Mā te huruhuru te manu ka rere – with wings and feathers a bird can fly

Kia ora, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship in 2008 to attend the Australasian Evaluation Society Conference held in Perth. As I was a full time student at the time undertaking a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Sector Research and Evaluation at Massey University, Aotearoa/New Zealand and a single mother, it was beyond my financial capacity to attend the conference. However, the scholarship gave me the wings I needed to take part in pre-conference workshops and the conference itself.

'On reflection, this opportunity was invaluable for me as a shy emerging indigenous evaluator. I learned that evaluators were interesting and interested people, and that a wider global community exists of like minded people.'

I have a distinct memory of meeting and being overawed by the number of renowned specialists who attended the conference, and being appreciative of their interest in having a conversation with me – a little Maori girl from Aotearoa. My awareness about the growing indigenous evaluation community and our emerging strength within mainstream evaluation also grew.

In closing, I would like to confirm that the opportunity that AES scholarships offer to emerging evaluators like me is incredibly important. Even after two years, I remember the effect it had on me and the renewed vigour in which I was able to apply to my study afterwards. Indigenous evaluation is a critical field that requires support to gain traction and fly, AES scholarships offer this opportunity. To my indigenous brothers and sisters who are testing their toes in the waters of evaluation and research, the AES community is definitely an exciting start.

To the AES community, thank you for allowing this bird to stretch her wings and fly and to meet with people whose work I have previously read in books and journal articles. I encourage other Pacific Islanders to apply for this grant to gain knowledge and experience from the conference as this will enable us to communicate better on evaluation in the Pacific Island Countries.'

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