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Delivering confidence and sustainability for Indigenous communities

Meenangu Wajarri Aboriginal Corporation (MWAC) is truly a ‘cradle to the grave’ support provider for Aboriginal Australians.

As a membership-based not-for-profit it aims to alleviate poverty and disadvantage of Wajarri Yamatji People in the Murchison Region, Western Australia. In collaboration with the Winja Wajarri Barna Limited not-for-profit and trustee company, it has been providing funding since 2013 to benefit over 1000 Wajarri Yamatji kids, families, and seniors with everything from education costs, to cultural and language and medical crisis.

MWAC came to Illuminance Solutions at the end of 2018 in need of a multi-pronged solution. With so many programs to administer and a manual record keeping system MWAC was bogged down and feeling distracted from its true mission.

Time and financial resources were being absorbed in the processing of thousands of paper applications from individual community members applying for programs. Information was being entered and stored manually in large filing cabinets. The status of applications in the system was difficult to track and monitor and when partners sought updates on activities, it was challenging to pull key data. Justifying financial decisions was a challenge without ready access to live data.

In some instances, due to these delays, members were waiting months at a time to get decisions on funding applications. The MWAC team was spending excessive time answering phone calls from applicants seeking updates on applications, limiting the impact of the MWAC’s support in the community.

An automated approach

With the goal of finding a simpler, more efficient and dynamic way of serving the community members MWAC sought help from Illuminance Solutions, a Microsoft Dynamics partner. Illuminance recently won Microsoft Global Partner for Social Impact 2019 award.

Illuminance proposed an Aboriginal Trust Management System (ATMS) for MWAC. The solution incorporated the communication functionalities of Dynamics 365 and was designed to improve communication, collaboration and marketing functionality for the trust and its members.

Illuminance implemented ATMS modules such as a self-service member portal, which empowers MWAC members to submit applications for funds and check the status of applications or balances on existing funds. The system also supports with communication between the MWAC and its membership, via channels such as SMS or email, and supports greater security and compliance.

The results

Through the automation of key functions, the solution has enabled a huge improvement in turnaround times on applications.

“There’s been a marked improvement. Applications used to take anywhere from a month to three months for a member to apply for and get funding. Now we can turn emergency applications around within 24 hours and most others are being done within five days.” says MWAC Chief Executive Officer, Daryl Smith.

There’s also been a significant reduction in time spent responding to queries – both due to the reduction in application processing times, the self-service portal, and the introduction of an automated communication system between MWAC and its members.

“The phone used to ring all the time with people checking-in on an application they had submitted. Staff would have to put them on hold, physically go over and look for the file. Whereas now the phone has stopped ringing as we’ve got systems set up so that the applicant gets a text message straight away when there is an update to their application” says Smith.

It has increased trust in the system from the community. Previously, there was sometimes a misperception that funds were not being distributed evenly. The dashboard now gives them confidence that it’s all fair and effectively monitored.

Looking ahead with confidence

ATMS is also addressing what was another growing concern – providing confidence in the fairness around MWAC financial decisions.

“It has increased trust in the system from the community. Previously, there was sometimes a misperception that funds were not being distributed evenly. The dashboard now gives them confidence that it’s all fair and effectively monitored,” says Smith.

By taking advantage of the Microsoft Dynamics solution, MWAC is reducing administration costs, enabling it to redirect funding towards its ultimate focus – further improving the lives of Wajarri Yamatji people.

“We’re able to use the time and money savings towards things that will really improve the community. For example we’re starting to investigate putting in other facilities, like a community hall or an after-school drop-in centre,” says Smith.

It’s also supporting the future sustainability of MWAC, as the technology allows the organisation to more effectively forecast its budgetary needs in coming years and make informed planning decisions.

“We can now go into the system and better plan for the future by better tracking budgets and predicting funds that will be requested because of the transparency ATMS provides us with. Rather than risk running into a funding nightmare, it’s allowing us to effectively plan, which will pay dividends in the long-run,” says Smith.