Our Impact

Maranguka, Bourke

Together in relentless collaboration

Maranguka is a model of Indigenous self-governance guided by the Bourke Tribal Council.

In 2013, Maranguka partnered with Just Reinvest NSW to develop a ‘proof of concept’ for justice reinvestment in Australia. The theory is that a whole-of-community and whole-of-government approach, led by the community, will see better outcomes for children and families. By addressing the underlying causes of crime, cost savings are generated, which can be reinvested in strategies that strengthen the community and further prevent crime.

"There is an elevated sense of positivity in Bourke. People in Bourke feel empowered. We’re doing things differently and demonstrating ways to have stronger relationships. We are forging new ways of collaborating that open up possibilities and unknown potential. It’s very exciting."

Alistair Ferguson, Founder Maranguka Justice Reinvestment.

Maranguka 2
Maranguka GM

At the time, the situation in Bourke was acute with the media fuelling its reputation as a hotbed of crime. The strategy was ambitious – back a remote NSW community, known as one of the state’s most dangerous, to develop the case for justice reinvestment in Australia. It was a high-risk, high-return opportunity for philanthropy, and in 2013 Dusseldorp Forum and VFFF jointly committed multi-year seed funding for the core costs of the Maranguka team.

Maranguka’s initial work focused on building trust between community and service providers, data collection, identifying community priorities and ‘justice circuit-breakers’. A shared vision, goals and measurement system were then developed as part of the community’s strategy: Growing our Kids Up Safe, Smart and Strong. Quarterly Working Groups were started to bring the community, government and service providers together to deliver the strategy, changing the way everyone works together.

Five years later, Bourke has changed the game. Maranguka created structures that enable the community to lead and bring partners alongside to work on delivering the community strategy together. Bourke has become an example to all levels of government and other communities, that better outcomes for children and families are achieved when the community is in the driver’s seat. KPMG analysis confirmed the savings generated by the collaborative efforts in Bourke in 2017 at $3.1 million with 2/3 in justice savings and 1/3 broader economic impact to the region.

Headline outcomes include:

  • a new Bourke narrative written by Bourke people
  • increased safety and decreased crime
  • reduced family violence
  • more licensed drivers and fewer driving offences
  • cost savings and economic development
  • improved service collaboration and coverage based on community priorities
  • government adapting to the community agenda and way of working
  • evolved Police approach towards a proactive and reinvestment model of justice

Crime reduction – the headline numbers[1]

  • 38% reduction in charges across the top five juvenile offences
  • 42% reduction in days spent in custody
  • 72% reduction in the number of young people proceeded against for driving without a licence
  • 39% reduction in domestic violence offences

[1] NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. 2015 to 2017 comparisons

By asserting cultural authority, with this work the Bourke Tribal Council has given life and substance to many initiatives including Closing the Gap, NSW OCHRE and Local Decision Making, Justice Reinvestment, Collective Impact and Place based community-led development. Philanthropy’s role has been enabling the time, space and independence for Bourke and partners to forge a new way of working together, characterised by relentless collaboration. In July 2019, Bourke Tribal Council, Maranguka, Dusseldorp Forum and VFFF were awarded Best Large Grant in the Australian Philanthropy Awards.

"It uses all the characteristics of philanthropy to its fullest extent: starting with the principle that communities and people know best what they need ….Exploiting the wisdom of crowds. Understanding context and system. Freedom to take risks, break rules, ignore the standard approaches and models. But underpin this with rigour and strategy, test, prod, interrogate, evaluate, re-assess, communicate, clarify. And then share – everything – the process, the tools, the data, the lessons, the outcomes, so others can use it all."                            

Sarah Davies, CEO Philanthropy Australia

Since 2013 Maranguka has been auspiced by the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) NSW/ACT. This has provided space and time for the Bourke community to explore Aboriginal community governance and develop a process for Maranguka's incorporation. In September 2020, VFFF was pleased to provide a grant of $175,500 to support the transition of Maranguka to independent governance.

We would like to acknowledge the many partners in this work including; Bourke Tribal Council, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), Just Reinvest NSW, Dusseldorp Forum, Lendlease, Gilbert & Tobin, Mick Gooda, Australian Human Rights Commission, NSW Ombudsman, KPMG, NSW Government, Federal Government, Bourke Shire Council, Cages Foundation, St Vincent de Paul Foundation, Matana Foundation for Young People, and the Ritchie Foundation.


  • Thriving People and Places
  • Children & Prison/CAPP
  • Core operations
  • Rural and regional
  • $300K - $1m
  • 3 - 5 years

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