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Health Justice Australia’s assessment of impact

Health Justice Australia was established in 2016 to catalyse health justice partnership. Its vision is to reshape health and legal service systems – putting the client at the centre, to respond better to the complex, intersecting health and legal problems that hold people in disadvantage.

To drive change in these systems, Health Justice Australia has been: developing knowledge about how these client-centred services deliver better outcomes for people; inspiring and catalysing a health justice partnership network to deliver client-centred services; and advocating health justice partnership to decision-makers.

Approach to this assessment

Health Justice Australia requested Social Ventures Australia (SVA Consulting) to undertake a project to assess Health Justice Australia’s impact over its first four years, to understand the value contributed to date, as well as to inform the future.

Our assessment was anchored around a Theory of Change for Health Justice Australia. The outcomes in this Theory of Change underpin our assessment questions. The two main methods for gathering data were semi-structured interviews and document review.

Uniformly positive views as to the overall contribution by Health Justice Australia

Stakeholders believe that Health Justice Australia has contributed significant value in its first four years, establishing a well-respected organisation, bringing rigour and clarity to the health justice model and catalysing the network of health justice partnerships.

These achievements were emphasised as ‘punching so far above their weight’, ‘amazing to consider they have produced so much with such a small team’, and ‘’with the time they’ve had, they’ve done a tremendous job’. Without Health Justice Australia, it was estimated that in 2020, there would be far fewer health justice partnerships. Those in existence would have been struggling and isolated. Australia would lack a national picture bringing together innovation and learning, and without this, there would be little to no funding or policy attention. The concept may have ‘withered on the vine’.

Stakeholders pointed to the talent of the Health Justice Australia team as its critical asset. The small team is credited with great energy, strategic thinking, relationship excellence, being approachable and supportive. Special note was also made of ‘incredible’ leadership by the Chief Executive Officer.

Stakeholders also pointed to the importance of multi-year and flexible funding provided to Health Justice Australia. This enabled recruitment of a talented team and freed up leadership to deliver its strategy rather than being drawn into fundraising efforts.

Making a strong contribution towards developing an evidence base

Stakeholders consider that Health Justice Australia has made a significant contribution to the development of a knowledge base, with ‘excellent quality thought leadership’ and ‘great quality’ publications. Stakeholders pointed to the organisation’s extremely strong research expertise.

Health Justice Australia has clearly established the rationale that underlies client-centred health justice joint working. Stakeholders also emphasise its ‘very powerful contribution’ to define an identity and consistent way of understanding health justice partnerships.

Health Justice Australia is setting the foundations for gathering evidence. The organisation is seen to be deeply committed to pushing towards these proof points, with general recognition that there is quite some way to go yet.

Catalysed the health justice partnership network and built capacity

The network of health justice partnerships has expanded and strengthened. Health Justice Australia played a critical role, providing coherence, profile and credibility to the model, supporting emerging partnerships and providing a neutral and independent voice. Practitioners reflected ‘we wouldn’t have conceived this without HJA’s help’. Health Justice Australia has also successfully brought practitioners together to share learning, showing an ‘impressive ability to facilitate these conversations’.

The support provided to health justice partnerships by Health Justice Australia is highly valued by practitioners, particularly the ‘very clear’, ‘high-quality’ resources, the health justice conferences which many highlighted as a key achievement), and the one-to-one support – all of which was not available before the establishment of Health Justice Australia.

Stakeholders noted that the skills and approach of Health Justice Australia have been important in this contribution. Health Justice Australia was described as ‘approachable’, demonstrating ‘very good partnering and relationship skills’. Health Justice Australia has also shown a ‘respectful approach’ and is ‘welcomed’ by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities.

Policy and advocacy influence established and reaching many of the right people

Health Justice Australia is seen to have made valuable progress in developing its policy and advocacy strategy. It has firmly established a broad range of ‘strong’ connections with decision-makers who influence research, policy and funding, having ‘built a good reputation in just four years’ and ‘gained a seat at the table’.

Stakeholders perceive that Health Justice Australia advocacy work is targeting the right issues in a robust way. Policy positions, statements and contributions are informed by a blend of domestic and international research and practitioner experience. Health Justice Australia deploys a broad range of strategies to advocate across the many different sectors that it seeks to influence.

Stakeholders believe that Health Justice Australia has become an authoritative voice, with early signs that this voice is starting to influence some policy and decisions. Health Justice Australia’s level of influence within the legal assistance sector is deeper and more embedded than within the health landscape, which reflects the genesis of the health justice movement from within the legal assistance sector. The relative scale and complexity of the health system compared to the legal assistance sector has required a different approach, with Health Justice Australia engaging influential organisations like health research bodies. Given the enormity of making inroads of influence into the health system with such a small team, engagement from the health sector is still being embedded.

Looking ahead

Stakeholders encourage Health Justice Australia to maintain its focus, pressure and energy on the current endeavour – ‘HJA’s time is absolutely now’, ‘on the road to even greater success’. Some key suggestions for the future are:

  • Continue to strive towards the fundamental research questions around impact and the types of
    collaboration that lead to positive outcomes for end beneficiaries.
  • Maintain persistence to drive engagement from across the health sector.
  • Step even more boldly into the role of accepted leader of this movement, without being limited
    by an alternate identity of a membership-based organisation.

Download the full report for:

  • Executive summary
  • Purpose and methodology
  • Overall contribution
  • Developing knowledge and a body of research
  • Building the capacity of the health justice partnership network and practitioners
  • Influencing policy
  • Concluding remarks from SVA consulting