Participatory monitoring with the Littlewell Working Group (2015)

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Overview of the project

Littlewell was a former Aboriginal Reserve located on the outskirts of Mingenew, a small town 100km south east of Geraldton in WA. Littlewell Reserve was established in 1898 and ran until the early 1970s when it was closed down after the residents moved to town-based accommodation in Mingenew and surrounding towns. The reserve was divested to the Mingenew Shire and in recent years the site was in danger of being developed into a bulk grain handling area. This sparked the former residents of Littlewell into action to preserve the Littlewell Reserve for future generations and the Littlewell Working Group (consisting of former residents and their family members) was established. Littlewell has a rich history of connection and belonging but also a history of hardship and trauma for many local Aboriginal families.

Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) has been working with Littlewell community now for five years. The Working Group originally sought support from ICV to assist with writing funding applications for the reserve, but ICV has remained involved with Littlewell ever since. Between 2014-2018, ICV has worked with Littlewell on two projects – Littlewell Submission Writing Project (2014-2017) and Littlewell Oral History Project (2015-2018). Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) was incorporated into these practical, hands-on activities resulting in the development of a heritage trail and video recordings to preserve the history of the community.

Littlewell won the 2019 Caring for Country National NAIDOC Award.

Overview of the evaluator and the evaluation

Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community development organisation. ICV is a non-profit organisation that has developed internal monitoring and evaluation capability as part of an extensive monitoring, evaluation and learning program that has been running since 2014.

ICV is invited to work with communities to co-design and deliver community development activities that are chosen by communities. Participatory monitoring is built into all activities. Learnings are shared with communities and ICV regional teams into a cycle of continuous improvement in practice.

This example focuses on the participatory monitoring practices of ICV while they were working with Littlewell Working Group in 2015. Methods included participatory monitoring, transect walking, ten seed technique, video and audio recordings of semi-structured interviews, and photography.

More information about:

Assessment of good practice – how was the evaluation rated?

Interviews were conducted with the elected spokesperson for the Littlewell Working Group and with the evaluator to assess the ethical practice in the evaluation approach. For the purposes of this example, the interviewees were asked to focus on the start of the joint journey in 2014-15.

Interviews, of approximately 40 minutes, took place with the interviewer meeting privately with the client and the representative of the organisation conducting the evaluation (the evaluator) via telephone. The representative was subsequently invited to clarify and elaborate on comments. The interviewer typed notes during both of the interviews. The final interview notes were provided to the client and the evaluator for final confirmation.

Interview notes were examined by the interviewer and key elements of the interview were summarised in the table below. This also includes reflections from the interviewer summarising significant issues across client and evaluator interviews.

The ratings of the evaluation practice were guided by a ‘seed to tree’ scale:



Summary of the ratings:

Five of the seven assessment points were in the mid- to upper-range of the scale, two were in the lower- to mid-range.

Overall, how would you rate the evaluation in terms of ethical practice?

Client Response Evaluator Response
50% (moving towards 100%) 75 – 100%
The project, relationships started from a little seed and, how it grew – into a tree with branches… 

We were building the relationship, co-design.

“It is not our story, it is their story. It is their journey. It doesn’t belong to ICV. It is their story of healing."

Discussion Points

The community spokesperson felt that the organisational manager involved being an Aboriginal person, even though he was from a different area, helped with developing mutual understanding and grasping what the community wanted.

Interviewer Reflections

This evaluation was initiated by the community. Therefore, every aspect is community–centric. The subject matter was around recording community stories with an end goal in mind – to shift the intended views of the stakeholders, and, consequently, the use of the land.

The client was impressed with how the project expanded and has grown over the years, bringing in additional stakeholders to increase the project reach. He explained this growth through a seed developing into a tree with branches.

Prioritise self-determination, community agency and self-governance

  1. How would you rate the community’s level of involvement in the evaluation?
Client Response Evaluator Response
50% (in the beginning) 35%

Good vibes coming from ICV and they stuck with us.  They   always asked us about what we wanted - particularly our elders.


Most of the community were busy so it was hard to get people involved in the co-design.

Discussion points
In the beginning, we were building up trust. If you were to ask us now, 5 years later, the answer would be 100%.
Interviewer reflections

There was a great recognition by both parties that: (a) there was a need to build a relationship, and (b) that a culturally appropriate relationship building was absolutely critical to success. 

At the time of interviewing, there was obviously a deep respect for each other.

Facilitate control and data sovereignty

  1. How would you rate the level of ownership the community had, and now have, of the evaluation and the data that was collected as part of the evaluation?
Client Response Evaluator Response
75% 60 – 75%

Our community owns all the data [the community’s history and experiences].

We chose what we wanted to use from our history that had been put away in the archives and brought out. The community was very happy about that.

The process around the data was very upfront. Ownership was always very important.

The governance model was that the community elected one person as their spokesperson. All video content was given back to the community through the YouTube channel.

Discussion points
Interviewer reflections

With the nature of the evaluation content (stories of hardship, trauma and healing) and the initiation by the community to undertake this project – ownership of their data and what that looks like was very much part of every step of the process.

The evaluator and ICV volunteer worked closely with the community to gather the information in a trusting and supportive way. The community made the final decision on what was to be included in the films before publication on the YouTube channel.

Communicate transparently, build trust and obtain individual and community consent

  1. How would you rate the communication and trust built with the community as part of the evaluation?
Client Response Evaluator Response
50% (in the beginning) 75-100%
ICV were assisting us particularly around the areas of interviews and collation. They held our hands along the way and were amazingly supported. Having a single spokesperson for the community – the building of a long-term relationship and trust were so very important
Discussion points
In the beginning stakeholders were at odds – the Shire Council had vested interests; the land laid dormant with no amenities for camping and Native Title had neglected their control. We went from feeling like we were going to get destroyed to finding common ground and working with the Shire Council.
Interviewer reflections
The shift of the stakeholders’ viewpoint and behaviour is evidence of the trust that was built during this evaluation.

Strengths-based recognition of cultures, acknowledging communities and individuals

  1. What value was placed on the strengths and culture of community?
Client Response Evaluator Response
75% 75 – 100%
Yes “xxx” – understood where I and the community were coming from. Having a Manager like “xxx” brought a coming together. He was able to discern what hats we are wearing. Clearly not Native Title business. ICV were quite understanding and respectful of the community development.

The project was at the request of the community.

Anything written up by ICV had input from the community spokesperson.

Discussion points

It was also about working with ICV’s community development framework.

The evaluator noted that any material that was proposed to be shared about the community was taken back to the community first to make sure their story was shared in the ‘right’ and proper way. “When I say the ‘right’ way, I refer to doing things using the Indigenous governance way, doing things the right way. There is an obligation to do things ethically.”

We built trust and relationship – this is valued and prized. If you break the trust, you break the relationship. 

Interviewer reflections
The Manager having the understanding and ability to embrace Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing were critical in the success of this evaluation.

Share benefits and apply two-way learning

  1. How would you rate the level of benefit the community received from the evaluation?
Client Response Evaluator Response
75 – 100% 75 – 100%

Over the moon with ICV’s professionalism.  The way we had our dreams and aspirations met.   I wish there were more ICV people around. Not let money get in the way. Very respectful and took on board the things that we would like to do.  Having someone drive it but with respect. 

The evaluation will help raise the profile of Littlewell and ICV are using Littlewell as an example with others.
Discussion points
ICV kept information very simple in plain English with visuals being utilised and incorporating language and knowledge to encourage ownership.
Interviewer reflections
The evaluator used culturally appropriate explainers for the community – the format of which made sense to their world.

Formalise accountability processes on ethical practice

  1. How would you rate your formal processes to ethics and your behaviour towards the community?
Client Response Evaluator Response
100% 65 – 75%
ICV’s heart is in the right place.  They stick with you right to the end. They’re passionate about their work.  The person organised to work with us was well chosen. Sat down with the countrymen that lived on the reserve and balanced the relationships with the other stakeholders to make sure we got it right. The level of community understanding pulled down this rating in those early days.  The translation of understanding the monitoring approach and the project from the elected spokesperson to the community took time and isn’t something that can be rushed. The community’s focus was their project, not ICV’s monitoring approach which was built into the project.
Discussion points

There was a real urgency to this project and evaluation, but time was still given to adhere to ethical processes – the community representative was engaged at each stage and given whatever time was needed to bring the whole community along.

The evaluator noted that a lot of the elders in the group had passed away. The priority was to record the video stories. The community had a good self-awareness of what needed to be done.

Interviewer reflections

The evaluator demonstrated ‘cultural maturity’ in being able to walk at the pace of community understanding and dynamics.

This is not something that can be taught but rather ‘caught’ through the building of relationship with the community.

With thanks to:

The interviewees: Thomas Cameron, elected spokesperson for the Littlewell Working Group & Yamatji Naaguja Wajarri man, Doyen Radcliffe, in his role as an internal evaluator and Regional Manager (WA), ICV.

The interviewer: Kate Kelleher, Kate Kelleher Consulting.

Putting principles into practice – how was it done?

A participatory M&E approach was built into the design and delivery of community-led development projects that the Littlewell Working Group asked ICV to assist with.

Read more about how the approach was implemented and how the community benefited from it.

Referring back to the Ethical Protocol Guide, read more about how the M&E work with the Littlewell Working Group put the principles into practice.

Download the full write up of this example:


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A special thanks to this page’s contributors

Thomas Cameron, elected spokesperson for the Littlewell Working Group; Yamatji Naaguja Wajarri man, Doyen Radcliffe, in his role as an internal evaluator and Regional Manager, ICV; Belinda Gibb and Sharon Babyack, ICV; Kate Kelleher (Kate Kelleher Consulting).

We would like to acknowledge and thank Maria Stephens, an Arrabi/Binning woman who speaks the Iwaidja language. She generously provided her artwork for this page.


This is part of a series

These are good practice examples of evaluation and participatory monitoring with Littlewell Working Group. These examples are part of a bigger project which seeks to share examples of good evaluative practice from community across Australia.

'Participatory monitoring with the Littlewell Working Group (2015)' is referenced in: