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Aboriginal People

Critical points for a practice approach when supporting Aboriginal people: be respectful, spend time, listen, yarn, consult Elders, learn about the local community, value Aboriginal knowledge


This page has three sections:

  1. Background Material that provides the context for the topic

  2. A suggested Practice Approach

  3. A list of Supporting Material / References

Feedback welcome!


Background Material

The Uluru Statement From the Heart

https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:


Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.


This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.


How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?


With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.


Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.


These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.


We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.


We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.


Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.


We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.


In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.


A Practice Framework for Social Work with Aboriginal People and Communities (Bindi, et al., 2011)

The practice framework presented in the diagram below is grounded in research findings and embedded in both the realities of social work practice and evidence from consultations with Aboriginal people. It encompasses the principles and values that are essential to culturally respectful social work practice with Aboriginal people and communities. The four circles represent the core areas of knowledge, values, skills, and self that inform Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal social workers in their work with Aboriginal people and communities. The two central elements of practice that are informed by all of these core areas are relationships and cultural courage.


It is through the development and maintenance of culturally respectful relationships that social workers are able to undertake meaningful work with Aboriginal people. Deep, humble listening creates an opening for information sharing, collaborative knowledge development, and honest communication. Social workers need to earn trust and respect with the community, which takes time due to the history and ongoing practices of colonisation. Cultural courage is the process whereby the worker recognises that the destination is the being with, not the doing to. For non-Aboriginal workers this means having an ability to understand how their own cultural background, privilege, values, and assumptions impact on how they relate to people. It also encompasses the need to acknowledge and confront fears, uncertainties, and anxieties that can arise in practice and to resist the temptation of becoming immobilised. For Indigenous workers, developing cultural courage involves the need to reflect on their own experiences of racism and history of colonisation and how this impacts on their work. In particular, these workers need support from colleagues and managers, so that they have the capacity to work with complex identities, roles, and boundary issues that influence and impact on their practice.


Be Aware of the Following

Non-indigenous people are not experts in this area. Social workers need to be aware of specific cultural knowledge, the local area and the mob with whom they are working. A professional and personal commitment to learning and building relationships is the most important and fundamental step in engaging and working respectfully and effectively with Aboriginal children, families and communities. Therefore, listen more than you speak, be genuine about taking time to hear the story, and learn about the community you are working with.

  • Develop your learning carefully and respectfully; be guided by Aboriginal people.

  • Give something of yourself—relationship building is a two-way process. Attend numerous community events.

  • Recognise you may feel uncomfortable from time to time because interactions with Aboriginal people can come with a high level of anger and distrust. Listen and think about how you can build trust.

  • First impressions are important for Aboriginal families. Slow down the first engagement; take time and listen. Go at the family’s pace. Invest something of yourself in the initial engagement. Don’t rush your agenda.

Engage in yarning with Aboriginal people prior to getting into health issues. This shows respect for the people you are working with and serving; it builds the relationship, that builds the trust, that builds the healthcare outcomes.


Listening to the stories of Aboriginal people can help practitioners understand historical hurts, in order to provide better practice and service responses.


Yarning circles are a perfect way to bring difficult conversations into a safe space where we can support each other to find the next step or a solution. It enables us to look at families in a strength-based way.

  • Aboriginal world views are not based on an individual’s wellbeing, but the wellbeing of the whole community. The role of extended family networks is important.

  • Always looking for the strengths, hopes and wonders Aboriginal people have to offer as both individuals and communities, especially when dealing with difficult social and emotional issues. A useful starting point is to remember that these cultures have survived and flourished on these lands for at least 60,000 years.

  • Working with the community—genuine listening and collaboration--enables the local community to identify the issues or gaps that need to be addressed, as well as contributing to strategies for overcoming issues. This helps identify workable solutions for non-Aboriginal practitioners and services.

  • Aboriginal communities maintain special connection to and responsibility for Country throughout Australia. Being on country helps them think and cope. They may go away from their country, but the flame is always burning to go back and reconnect. Country enables Aboriginal people to find their strength, to revitalise.

  • You will at times be required to make a choice about what you will stand for and when you will advocate for change. Ultimately, it is important to continue to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals.

Some other practical points:

  • Contact parenting groups or the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group or the local Aboriginal Land Council to gain some basic knowledge of the community including dominant family groups, preferred names, original custodians and language groups.

  • Involve Elders, the immediate and extended family and kinship groups.

  • Respect the use of silence and don’t mistake it for misunderstanding a topic or issue.

  • Always wait your turn to speak.

  • Use clear, uncomplicated language. Don’t use jargon.

  • Don’t continually ask a person to repeat themselves if it is difficult to understand them, especially in front of a large group.

  • Always be open, honest and respectful.

  • Keep your word.

  • Speaking with Aboriginal people takes time—be patient and don’t rush. Aboriginal people may not work to deadlines about community business in the same way you do. They may also have other important demands on their time that you may not be aware of.

  • Attend community open days, fair days and other events.

  • Consider transport needs when organising meetings. If the meeting will go for over one hour, provide light refreshments.

Keeping Aboriginal Kids Safe

As a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse the Commonwealth Government (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021) produced a resource to support organisations engaging with Aboriginal children to ensure organisations offer support in a culturally safe way. For each of the 10 principles, the resources outlines suggestions for executive, middle management and operational staff. The following is a synthesis of the suggestions for operational staff. They reinforce much of the above approach that social workers should adopt when supporting Aboriginal communities, families, adults and young people.


How can social workers implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations?

A Synthesis of Suggestions for Operational Staff


At the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Level

Engage with the community (Elders, family, other significant people in the child’s life) to understand and respond to their needs around culturally safe physical and online environments. Respectful engagement with families and the community is the key to success in this endeavour. It takes time to build trusting relationships, mutual respect and cultural competence. Attending community events is an important means of engaging with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.


At the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Level

Behave in a welcoming and culturally safe manner as you listen to what families are saying in formal and informal conversations.


Understand how to appropriately respond to the concerns and complaints of families. Keep in mind that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families may find it difficult to complain and may require support to do so.


Where investigations happen, provide culturally appropriate support to families as the process unfolds.


At the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people’s Level

Create an environment that is welcoming and embraces all children regardless of their abilities, sex, gender, or social, economic, or cultural background. Each child should feel safe to have a voice and participate in programs and activities. Use culturally appropriate ways to asking to check children feel safe.


Help children identify trusted adults or friends they can talk to.


Listen to what children say and reflect on their views to improve activities and processes.


Understand how to appropriately respond to the concerns and complaints of children. Keep in mind that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may find it difficult to complain and may require support to do so.


Where investigations happen, provide culturally appropriate support to children as the process unfolds.


At the organisational level

Uphold and promote the human and cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Advocate for these rights, including the right to cultural safety.


Participate in cultural safety and competency training to create culturally safe, welcoming, and accessible environments. Implement culturally safe and appropriate services.


Urban Aboriginal Children Health and Wellbeing

Miller et al. (2020) identified 13 factors that contribute to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children in Australian urban areas. The factors most commonly reported by carers as being necessary for their Aboriginal children to be healthy and well were:

1. Secure and loving family relationships

2. Access and availability of culturally competent healthcare

3. Adequate nutrition and food security

4. Engagement with community and community services

5. Active living

The following factors were also commonly reported:

6. Education for children and families

7. Social and emotional connectedness

8. Physical, emotional and cultural safety

9. Breaking the cycle of disadvantage

10. Availability and affordability of quality housing

11. Strong culture

12. Positive Aboriginal role models

13. Carer health and wellbeing


The authors concluded that non-Aboriginal models of child developmental and health do not address the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal children, nor do they sufficiently address the unique structural influences on health including intergenerational trauma, socioeconomic disadvantage and racism. Services that support family health, provide health education, enhance access to early childhood and youth services, improve food security and support emerging role models in communities are sorely needed. So is systemic change. Without it, structural determinants including racism and socioeconomic disadvantage will continue to contribute to food insecurity, child removals, limited access to culturally appropriate and affordable healthcare, and inadequate housing.


Aboriginal families strongly impacted by food insecurity (2022)

Using an internationally recognised tool adapted for use in Aboriginal communities, 155 Aboriginal households were surveyed, with 97% of them reported as mildly, moderately or severely food insecure. Sixty percent of the households reported being severely food insecure, meaning they had to skip meals, had reduced food intake and might have even gone a day or days without eating. The prevalence of food insecurity was similar across all three locations (outer-urban Sydney, Wagga Wagga, and Bourke).

Food security is achieved “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. This broad definition emphasises four distinct dimensions of food security which include the availability, accessibility and utilisation of food, in addition to the stability of each of these factors, which refers to an ability to withstand shocks to the broader food system. Food insecurity occurs when at least one of these domains are not met, where the experience at an individual or household level may be temporary or longer-term.

Members of several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia developed a more holistic definition of food security as being:

“The land and the sea is our food security. It is our right. Food security for us has two parts: Food security is when the food from our ancestors is protected and always there for us and our children. It is also when we can easily access and afford the right non-traditional food for a collective healthy and active life. When we are food secure we can provide, share and fulfil our responsibilities, we can choose good food, knowing how to make choices and how to prepare and use it”

Food insecurity is a complex problem. There are a lot of social, economic and health injustices contributing to health disparities, which all stem from colonisation and the ongoing impacts of that. Addressing the high levels of food insecurity in both remote and non-remote areas will require research to understand strategies that work and implementation through community-led programs to ensure regular and affordable access to healthy food. The next step may be to help facilitate discussions between the partner communities and policy makers, in a way that gives the communities the opportunity to talk to the government about what they think should happen to improve the situation. It’s really important to support the self-determination and autonomy of communities (Davison et al, 2023).


First Nations people in Wagga Wagga and Campbelltown, Sydney felt strongly that food insecurity was a major issue facing many First Nations’ families. There were five key drivers of food insecurity:

  • Being trapped in financial disadvantage as a result of poverty and unemployment making healthy food unaffordable

  • Gaps in the local food system, i.e. inequities in the availability and accessibility of affordable, healthy food

  • Limitations of non-Aboriginal food relief services, e.g. stigma and racism experienced by First Nations peoples when accessing organisations for food relief

  • Ongoing impacts of colonisation leading to generational loss of healthy food knowledge; this had led to First Nations peoples consuming an energy-dense ‘Western’ diet high in fat, salt and sugar

  • The need to maintain family, cultural and community commitments and responsibilities; sharing of food and resources was used to deal with food insecurity with this sharing viewed as a positive cultural factor.

Solutions suggested included:

  • Introducing school breakfast programs

  • Conducting cooking and budgeting programs

  • Community vegetable gardens

  • Providing transport options to enable families to access larger supermarkets with cheaper food prices

Impact of Domestic and Family Violence on Young Aboriginal People

(from Morgan, 2022)

Domestic and family violence (DFV) is one of the most significant contributors to the high rates of involvement of young Aboriginal people with child protection and youth justice systems. As a result young people can:

  • Suffer significant and lifelong negative consequences, e.g. alcohol misuse and drug dependency

  • Be exposed to child removal and intergenerational trauma, further embedding disadvantage in their lives

  • Be at high risk of further violence in institutions

  • Be more likely to perpetrate and/or experience violence in their own future intimate relationships

  • Enter the youth justice system early in life

Unfortunately current responses to DFV mainly utilise child protection processes that remove support by separating young people from family and culture. The threat of child removal also deters Aboriginal women from reporting violence or seeking assistance.

The solution is to:

  • Consult with young people on the impact of DFV

  • Recognise the inadequacy of child protection services in addressing DFV

  • Have an approach led, developed and implemented by Aboriginal people with Aboriginal services and culturally aware mainstream services providing:

  • Family centred approaches including aunties, uncles, grandparents, to ensure young people are safe

  • Cultural knowledge to reinforce strong values and principles around addressing violence, including building a strong cultural identity and connection

  • A focus on creating safe people places, families and communities for young people

  • Spaces for young people’s views to be heard and incorporated into program development

This should all occur while ensuring perpetrators are held accountable for their violence. The (child protection) approach of holding women solely responsible for the safety of their children should cease.

Practice Approach


Willams-Tchen (2020) and Conway (2020) suggest the following when interacting with Aboriginal people:

  1. Do as many different cultural awareness trainings as you can do in order to get different understandings of Australia’s black history.

  2. Get to know your local Indigenous community.

  3. Watch as many movies, TV shows and read books about Aboriginal culture.

  4. Talk with any Aboriginal staff or colleagues to hear their story if they wish to share and feel culturally safe to be able to.

  5. Learn what your biases are. If you don’t think you have any, then have another think.

  6. Be prepared to participate in challenging conversations around topics such as ‘racism’, ‘cultural safety’, ‘black lives matter’ and ‘white fragility’.

  7. Acknowledge that as a profession we need to do better.

  8. Don’t feel guilty of past practices but take responsibility to ensure that these practices don’t continue to occur in the work that you do today.

  9. Continue to identify barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in your practices, organisations and work structures, and find ways to alleviate these, and

  10. Be an ally to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community , not a hindrance or remain part of the problem.

In addition:

  • Value Indigenous knowledge and knowledge systems. Different does not mean ‘lesser than’.

  • Be open to learning about my culture and what is important to me.

  • Hear me. And ask if I feel heard. I want to know I am truly heard, and not just in a tokenistic way.

  • Ask me ‘What does cultural safety look like to you? Do you feel culturally safe at work? Is there anything that I could be doing differently that would help you feel culturally safe at work?’ Cultural safety is an integral part of my social and emotional wellbeing.

  • Take action when you see something in the workplace that places my cultural safety in jeopardy. I see your inaction as being complicit to the behaviour.

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Use the usual counselling approaches and an appropriate practice model(s) (e.g. problem-solving, task-centred, solution-focused, crisis-intervention, and motivational interviewing) keeping in mind the background information above. Incorporate appropriate practice approaches depending on the specific issues, e.g. depression, grief and loss, parenting, stress management, etc.

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In 2023 Ryan and Ivelja conducted a literature review around Australian social work and the experiences of First Nations Peoples. Their findings suggested that First Nations Peoples knowledges, ways of knowing, being and doing, and pedagogies need to take a central space in Australian social work education to dismantle the invisible hegemonic western-centric views that currently monopolise Australian social work practice and education. Social work practice and education needs to be Indigenised and decolonised. Five themes emerged as steps along this process:

  1. Non-Indigenous staff need to be critically reflective of their work as allies and regularly critique and challenge the privileges that colonisation has afforded them. Social workers must accept self-determination, refuse cultural and knowledge appropriation, readily confront their own privileges, and use skills of deep listening and respect when regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

  2. First Nations Peoples knowledges should be central and equal. To achieve this, there needs to be a commitment to the disruption of continual colonial practices.

  3. Social work theories (e.g. feminism, anti-racism and anti-oppressive practice) step from a place of Whiteness and can ‘other’ those who are not granted the same privileges. Moreover, anti-racist and anti-oppressive strategies are directly derived from European and American schools of sociology. Social workers must recognise and dismantle the inherent Whiteness within social work that ultimately supports Australian cultural and racial hierarchy.

  4. Prevailing practices of colonisation ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain the most significantly disadvantaged population within modern day Australia. Decolonisation of social work practice and education requires non-Indigenous social workers to sit comfortably with the loss of certain privileges obtained at the oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

  5. Social work education within Australia is still largely western-centric. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges are generally othered and not placed as equal to western knowledge systems. A true Yarning model (i.e. not just a ‘chat’) provides one way of moving forward in this area. It establishes connection and relatedness, is an active sharing and exploring between two people. Personal experiences are shared and a consensus achieved.

Fleming et al. (2023) highlight the importance of yarning, truth-telling and Dadirri (deep listening) in the decolonising process. They point out that social work is institutionally white, founded upon western thought generated during European enlightenment and modernity. It is embedded within dynamics of normative framing, capitalism, and individualism. In Australia, whiteness almost erased the Indigenous stories from the landscape of social welfare work. An ongoing agenda to decolonise social work has drawn contemporary researchers to engage in Yarning and truth-telling. Without Yarning First Nations people who share their expertise with non-indigenous workers re-risk colonisation of this knowledge.


Yarning uses Indigenous Australian circular linguistic styles. It privileges Aboriginal voices, bringing rich insight about the world and what really matters to people. Yarning involves sharing stories, is participatory, therapeutic, healing, and appreciates different evidence and theoretical perspectives. It enhances self-empowerment by making power and oppression visible. It involves Dadirri. Dadirri is about listening, not about critical analysis in ways that may risk colonising or bastardising the Yarn.


Recent work by Bindi Bennett and others on cultural responsiveness is outlined in Appendix 1 at the end of this material.


Emerging Minds (https://emergingminds.com.au/ and search for “Aboriginal people”) has a number of resources relevant to a practice approach for Aboriginal people.


First Nations Peoples Wellbeing


A recent Emerging Minds (2022) article (see references below) deals with wellbeing.

The article points out the centrality of Land in wellbeing, and the holistic nature of wellbeing, incorporating mental, physical, cultural and spiritual health. Practitioners working with Aboriginal people should appreciate the richness of First Nations cultures and be willing to hear and understand First Nations peoples’ stories.


The article stresses that relationships and connections are central and the most important and fundamental step in engaging with First Nations people. Relationship building starts with listening. After establishing respectful relationships and hearing First Nations peoples’ stories around intergenerational trauma, it is important for social workers to bring a strengths-based and hope-inspiring approach to their work with Aboriginal people. This is possible even in conditions that appear adverse for children and adults. Explore with the community how Aboriginal people have overcome problems in the past and how this can guide them in the future.


Creating the opportunity for parents to tell their stories is the most important step in helping them to understand the impacts of historical and complex trauma on their relationships with their children.


In 2020 Emerging Minds published a free course to assist practitioners to better understand First Nations peoples and support their social and emotional wellbeing (A Framework for Understanding—see references below). This course covers the importance of listening, engaging in two-way learning and walking alongside First Nations peoples when supporting them. It examines in detail nine principles that form the basis of the Framework for Understanding:

  1. The health of First Nations people should be viewed holistically, encompassing mental, physical, cultural, and spiritual health, with Land as central.

  2. Self-determination should be central.

  3. Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of health problems, especially of mental health problems.

  4. Trauma and loss must be recognised as a direct outcome of the disruption of cultural wellbeing.

  5. Human rights must be recognised and respected with human rights relevant to mental illness specifically addressed.

  6. Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

  7. The centrality of family and kinship must be recognised, as well as the broader concepts of family and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.

  8. The numerous groupings, languages, kinships, tribes and ways of living should be recognised. First Nations people may live in urban, rural or remote settings in traditional or other lifestyles and move between these ways of living.

  9. It is important to recognise the great strengths, creativity, and endurance of First Nations people. Their deep understanding of the relationships between human being and their environment should be acknowledged.

Working with Aboriginal Elders


Elders within First Nations communities are respected for their knowledge, stories, language, art, and songs. For Aboriginal workers, they are our cultural teachers. They need to be looked after with great 'Respect" at all times (Willimas-Tchen, 2023).


Things to consider when working with an Aboriginal or any First Nations Elder:

  1. Ensure the Elder has transport to attend meetings or arrange cab vouchers if possible.

  2. As soon as they arrive offer them a cup of tea /coffer and biscuit/sandwich.

  3. Know how to address the Elder—do they prefer their first name or “Uncle” / “Aunt”?

  4. Find out before the meeting where they are from (language group) and their position in their community. Are they a Traditional Custodian, or a respected Elder community member?

  5. Understand the diversity of Elder experiences, e.g. Stolen Generation member, may or may not have finished schooling, may or may not have attended University, may have low health, low mental health and low computer literacy. Be prepared for all factors.

  6. Some Elders may us terminology that is now seen as offensive, e.g. ‘half-caste’, because that is the legal term the Elder had to use to identify as.

  7. Asking Elders to share personal or family stories can be triggering for them, causing unresolved grief and loss to come out in the hours and days following the discussion. Always follow up with them in the next few days.

  8. Be aware of any local cultural protocols that you may need to follow, so you don’t embarrass ourself and cause the Elder shame.

  9. Be aware of any community politics that exist. Know what they are, but don’t get involved. Not all Elders will work together.

  10. If meetings are scheduled before lunch, consider ordering a catered lunch. Offer the opportunity for Elders to take what remains home.

  11. Meetings might have to be postponed at the last minute as many Elders have chronic illness, medical appointments, have to participate in “sorry business” within families and deal with other family issues.,

  12. Think about reimbursement for the Elders’ time and cultural knowledge, e.g. payment with an invoice, gift voucher or card for monetary value.

Working with First Nations Young People


Introduction

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a third world age structure. This means there are relatively more children, fewer adults and very few elders in the community. This reduces the availability of healthy adults to care for children, reduces the number of grandparents available to support parents and children with the relative burden of care falling to young people to look after family.

  • Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people this will involve:

  • Understanding and working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture

  • Understanding the legacy of colonisation

  • Knowledge of child development

  • Having a multidimensional approach by considering the following six areas

o Physical and health development (e.g., check for anaemia or glue ear)

o Emotional and cognitive development (e.g., check for the impact of trauma on behaviour and learning; is a culturally safe mental health assessment needed?

o Social: the impact of the family or community, of transgenerational trauma; is support/engagement needed for the family; poor housing; overcrowding; inadequate supervision; constant moving.

o Cultural/Spiritual: are there cultural or spiritual issues present? does the young person have cultural supports?

o Systemic: is racism and discrimination an issue?

o Socio-political: how are young people supported during community wide public events?

  • Understanding contemporary risk factors; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children:

o have a greater exposure to general risk factors for development and stressful life events

o are at greater risk for emotional and behavioural difficulties

o have higher rates of hospital admission for mental health problems

o have higher rates of suicide

o have higher rates of incarceration

o have a higher rate of removal under the care of child protection services

o are more likely to have low birth weight, physical health problems and developmental disability

o have poorer educational outcomes.

  • Being aware of strength and protective factors

o strong cultural identity and belief systems

o extensive kinship systems which are socially inclusive

o broader attachment models

o cultural and spiritual strengths including connection to country and ancestry

o strong child rearing practices

o early autonomy and self-reliance

o cultural ways of learning

o role of traditional healers and ceremony

o focus on healing.

Education, income, and employment

Housing

Child protection and justice systems

Overweight and obesity

Alcohol consumption

Tobacco smoking


Questions to guide practitioners work include: Where is the real change needed? What role can you play to improve the situation? Who else needs to be involved? Who else needs to be better informed? How would you promote system reform?

Examples of implementation

If you work in a school as a teacher or school counsellor you could:

  • take time to understand the context and stressors that may be present in the families of the children and young people you work with

  • understand that children’s behaviours may be a result of the impact of many factors that they are coping with

  • seek to offer support to families and engage with them by using the cultural supports available to you, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators or liaison officers.

If you are a juvenile justice or corrections worker

  • understand that young people (especially boys) often display aggression and anger when they are sad and depressed and dealing with traumatic circumstance

  • investigate the physical health needs of young people, some of their issues may be caused by hearing or learning difficulties that have not been diagnosed or treated

  • look to support young people to identify their strengths, where young people have been overwhelmed by issues they often struggle to identify what they do well, and many have great resilience and skills.

Social Work Practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families and Children

Non-Aboriginal models of child developmental and health do not address the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal children, nor do they sufficiently address the unique structural influences on health including intergenerational trauma, socioeconomic disadvantage and racism. Services that support family health, provide health education, enhance access to early childhood and youth services, improve food security and support emerging role models in communities are sorely needed. So is systemic change. Without it, structural determinants including racism and socioeconomic disadvantage will continue to contribute to food insecurity, child removals, limited access to culturally appropriate and affordable healthcare, and inadequate housing.

1. Take a holistic approach

  • One of the common problems encountered when working with children and young people in general is developing an understanding of what drives behaviour, rather than labelling the behaviour itself.

  • When you engage with children, before considering what they can’t do, take the time to see them for who they are. are they funny, clever, cheeky, sporty, shy, or a deep thinker?

  • Each family will be unique in its structure and history. Tread lightly and respectfully and take your time.

  • Ask: What is important for this child and family? What strengths and positive qualities do you recognise in this child and family? What communication skills (including body language) are needed to sensitively navigate conversations? Remember to keep checking in with the family so you can make sure they are feeling comfortable.

  • Be aware that there may be an extended kinship structure that supports the family.

  • As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families have learned to distrust services, take time to learn, grow and develop relationships with the family. Listen to past experiences. Consider what can happen to support basic needs (housing, technology access, transport), NDIS issues, necessary referrals for families.

  • Continually evaluate how the family is perceiving the worker and if behaviour should be altered.

2. Engage in culturally safe practice

  • Aboriginal people engage in deep listening and quiet awareness. They have a contemplative approach to life. They are not threatened by silence. They don’t worry believing deep listening and quite stillness will make the way clear. They are used to the struggle.

  • The system is not perfect: acknowledge this and build a relationship with families so they see the person behind the role. Show respect when entering the home.

  • Be respectfully curious about cultural identity, cultural obligations, connection to Land, connection to mob, and important kinship relationships.

  • Respect family’s knowledge. Listen, don’t say what they need. Keep an open mind and learn about families’ ways of understanding health and wellbeing. Social and emotional wellbeing is maintained through connections to body, mind and emotions, spirituality, land, community, family, language and culture.

  • Storytelling is an important part of culture and is used to keep children safe.

3. Engage specific skills suited to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures

  • Take time to build relationships. Allow family stories to be heard; don’t rush into problem solving but listen deeply and allow the family to develop their own solutions.

  • Offer practical, ‘systems’-focused support around the NDIS (if necessary), children’s development.

  • A good worker with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families:

  • shows genuine care, empathy and compassion

  • listens and is respectful in a mindful way

  • reflects (e.g. when they make mistakes, they learn from them)

  • values the families and children they work alongside; and

  • builds safety and trust.

  • With children and young people:

  • Create an environment that is welcoming and embraces all children regardless of their abilities, sex, gender, or social, economic, or cultural background. Each child should feel safe to have a voice and participate in programs and activities. Use culturally appropriate ways to asking to check children feel safe.

  • Help children identify trusted adults or friends they can talk to.

  • Listen to what children say and reflect on their views to improve activities and processes.

  • Understand how to appropriately respond to the concerns and complaints of children. Keep in mind that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may find it difficult to complain and may require support to do so.

  • Where investigations happen, provide culturally appropriate support to children as the process unfolds.

Supporting Young People Leaving Out-of-Home-Care (Walsh et al., 2023)


In Australia, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth are over-represented at all stages of the child protection system. This includes over-representation among care leavers; approximately 1,265 First Nations youth aged 15-17 years exit out of home care (OOHC) annually, and this figure is rising (Productivity Commission, 2021). First Nations care leavers commonly face poor social, economic, and health outcomes. Inadequate and culturally insensitive services contribute to these poor outcomes.


Introduction

The removal rates of First Nations children from their families continue to be high. At June 2021, 22,243 First Nations children were in out-of-home care, which was 42% of all children in care despite First Nations children being only 5% of all children in Australia. First Nations children are 10 times more likely to be in care than non-indigenous children, and this number is rising. Some argue that the Stolen Generations have never ended.


The current challenges for First Nations youth leaving OOHC

(from Walsh et al.)


The following outcomes are common when Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children leave OOHC:

  • leaving care ill-prepared and unsupported for independent living due to a lack of transition-to-independence planning

  • leaving OOHC with poorly developed social and emotional skills as a result of pre-care and in-care experiences

  • experiencing short- and long-term homelessness because of severe shortages of affordable housing

  • leaving OOHC with diagnosed and undiagnosed health issues

  • having difficulty achieving success in education and employment

  • following a volatile pathway, potentially including drug and alcohol abuse, family violence and involvement in the justice system.

Additionally, female care leavers are more like to become pregnant at an earlier age and be at risk of their own children being removed.


First Nations care leavers face the following challenges:

Service challenges

  • Leaving OOHC with a reluctance to engage with mainstream leaving care services (because of hesitancy to engage with social welfare services due to historical and contemporary removal of children).

  • Leaving care feeling unsupported and unheard from a cultural standpoint, i.e. many services are culturally insensitive, whereas culturally informed care is required.

Cultural and reunification challenges

  • Leaving OOHC without a cultural plan (despite the known benefits of cultural planning): Leaving care without a cultural plan led by First Nations people inhibits First Nations care leavers’ sense of identity, self-worth and belonging.

  • Being unsupported in navigating relationships and reunification with family: Family and community reunification is not supported—many travel long distances to return to family and then may find family ill-equipped to welcome them leading to homelessness and isolation.

  • Experiences of transgenerational trauma: The families and communities care leavers return to continue to live with unhealed trauma and socio-economic disadvantage.

  • Systems unable to support the mobility of First Nations care leavers: Families are often dispersed, even living interstate.

Housing challenges

  • Australia has a severe shortage of affordable housing: Finding affordable and culturally appropriate accommodation is a widespread challenge for First Nations care leavers leading a transition to homelessness.

  • Government and private rental accommodation does not generally support First Nations ways of living: Mainstream government or public housing does not generally support mobility and the sharing of accommodation for long and short periods with close and extended family and community. When a care leaver finds accommodation, but breaches tenancy regulations specified by government and private housing providers, they are often evicted and so too are the family and community members sharing the dwelling with them.

What does research tell us about how we can do better? Walsh et al. (2023) provide a more detailed analysis of this issue. Research suggests changes can be made in three areas: service practices, cultural practices and housing.

Service practices

  • Listen to local First Nations community organisations, Elders and community members. There is no one size fits all approach. Utilise their strengths and ideas. Engage in meaningful and equal collaboration with local First Nations people.

  • Effective transition planning for First Nations youth should start early and can begin when they are as young as 12 years old. They should include First Nations-specific and mainstream education and employment pathway planning and housing and emphasise a strong connection to culture.

Cultural practices

  • Have proper cultural plans in place to build a stronger sense of identity and belonging in care leavers, and this can benefit all other areas of their lives.

  • Have a focus on family reunification. A holistic assessment of a First Nations care leaver’s family situation should start when they are in care and include all important First Nations and non-indigenous people in that young person’s life, and possibly family they have not yet met.

  • Build service systems and practices that support mobility. Supporting mobility may involve establishing and maintaining support mechanisms outside the current geographical jurisdiction.

Housing

  • Young First Nations people require access to culturally appropriate affordable housing close to family and community support networks. Finding affordable accommodation that can support shared housing with close and extended family members when required is desirable.

To support the provision of flexible and culturally safe service practices, Walsh et al. (2023) suggest the following:

  • At all stages of service provision, make an effort to include the significant people in a First Nations client’s life. Look for the strengths within First Nations family and community networks. Utilise these strengths to support the First Nations care leaver’s transition planning, cultural planning, leaving care support systems and family reunification.

  • Design service practice knowing that a ‘whole of family’ cultural and trauma-informed response is often necessary.

  • Be flexible in how, when and where meetings with First Nations young people and their families occur.

  • Focus on relationality, be patient and take the time to build trusting relationships with First Nations clients and their families.

  • Ensure First Nations young people and their families feel safe and comfortable when interacting with them.

  • When talking with First Nations young people, explore what level of understanding the young person really has. Consider asking the First Nations youth if they would like to be accompanied by a significant person.

  • A less formal approach is encouraged. Avoid jargon and be very careful to explain the purpose and use of formal documentation clearly.


Impact of Family and Domestic Violence on Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

Domestic and family violence is one of the most significant contributors to the high rates of involvement of young Aboriginal people with child protection and youth justice systems. Exposure to DFV can result in:

  • Significant and lifelong negative consequences, e.g. alcohol misuse and drug dependency

  • Child removal and intergenerational trauma

  • Violence in institutions

  • An increased likelihood of perpetrating and/or experiencing violence in future intimate relationships

  • Early entry into the youth justice system

Unfortunately current responses to DFV mainly utilise child protection processes that often remove support by separating young people from family and culture. The threat of child removal also deters Aboriginal women from reporting violence or seeking assistance.

Solutions involve:

  • Consulting with young people on the impact of DFV

  • Recognising the inadequacy of child protection services in addressing DFV

  • Having an approach led, developed and implemented by Aboriginal people

  • Aboriginal and appropriate, culturally aware mainstream services providing:

  • Family centred approaches (aunties, uncles, grandparents) to ensure young people are safe

  • Building a strong cultural identity and connection to reinforce strong values and principles around addressing violence

  • Safe people places, families and communities for young people

  • Spaces for young people’s views to be heard and incorporated into program development

  • Perpetrators must be held accountable for their violence.

  • Furthermore, the approach of holding women solely responsible for the safety of their children should cease.


Supporting Material

(available on request)

Articles by Bindi Bennett and others on the CICRT (Continuous Improvement Cultural Responsiveness Measurement Tool). An outline of this tool and its seven components follows in Appendix 1.


Bennett, B. & Bodkin-Andrews, G. (2021). Continuous improvement cultural responsiveness measurement tools. Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre. https://www.usc.edu.au/research/indigenous-and-transcultural-research-centre/building-knowledge-systems


Bennett, B., & Morse, C. (2023). The continuous improvement cultural responsiveness tools (CICRT): Creating more culturally responsive social workers. Australian social Work, 76(3), 315-329. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2023.2186255


Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Keeping Our Kids Safe: Cultural Safety and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. Retrieved from https://childsafety.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-06/final-keeping-our-kids-safe.pdf


Davison, J., Sherriff, S., & Muthayya S. (2023, August 23). High levels of food insecurity in NSW Aboriginal communities. Sax Institute. https://www.saxinstitute.org.au/news/high-levels-of-food-insecurity-in-nsw-aboriginal-communities/


Dudgeon, P., Milroy, H., & Walker, R. (2018). Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their families. Healing Foundation. https://healingfoundation.org.au/app/uploads/2018/07/HF-Young-People-fact-sheet.pdf


Emerging Minds. (2021). Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children living with disability. Retrieved from https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/working-with-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-families-living-with-disability/


Fleming, C., Young, S., Else, J., Hammond, L., & McLaren, H. (2023). A yarn among social workers: Knowing, being, and doing social work learning, expertise, and practice. Australian Social Work, 76(3), 330-342. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2023.2199424


Millar, H. M. et al. (2020). Parents’ and carers’ views on factors contributing to the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 44(4), 265-270. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12992. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1753-6405.12992


Morgan, G., Butler, C., French, R., Creamer, T., Hillan, L., Ruggiero, E., Parsons, J., Prior, G., Idagi, L., Bruce, R., Gray, T., Jia, T., Hostalek, M., Gibson, J., Mitchell, B., Lea, T., Clancy, K., Barber, U., Higgins, D., ... Trew, S. (2022). New Ways for Our Families: Designing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practice framework and system responses to address the impacts of domestic and family violence on children and young people. (Research report, 06/2022). ANROWS. https://www.anrows.org.au/publication/new-ways-for-our-families-designing-an-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-cultural-practice-framework-and-system-responses-to-address-the-impacts-of-dfv-on-children-and-yo/


Ryan, J., & Ivelja, J. (2023). Indigenisation, (de)colonisation, and Whiteness: Dismantling social work education. Australian Social Work, 76(3), 300-314. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2023.2203116


Walsh, J., Turnbull, L., Mendes, P., & Standfield, R. (2023). First Nations care leavers: Supporting better transitions (Practice Guide). Melbourne: Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies. https://aifs.gov.au/resources/practice-guides/first-nations-care-leavers-supporting-better-transitions


Williams-Tchen, A. J. (2023). 12 tips for working with Aboriginal elders. Social Work Focus, 8(2). https://socialworkfocus.partica.online/social-work-focus/spring-2023/flipbook


Other resources

The Uluru Statement From The Heart https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement


The Uluru Statement – Our Story (provides history from Aboriginal people perspective)https://ulurustatement.org/our-story


Bindi, B., Zubrzycki, J., & Bacon, V. (2011). What do we know? The experiences of social workers working alongside Aboriginal people. Australian Social Work, 64(1), 20-37. doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2010.511677


Stewart, (B) J., & Allan, J. (2013). Building relationships with Aboriginal people: A cultural mapping toolbox. Australian Social Work, 66(1), 118-129. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2012.708937

This paper describes a cultural mapping tool developed specifically for working with Aboriginal people experiencing mental health problems. The tool has broad scope, drawing from ecological and systems approaches. It will assist social workers to understand cultural and family obligations and build relationships with Aboriginal service users. There are three components in the cultural mapping toolbox: a social and emotional wellbeing cluster map, a community and cultural diversity map, and a migration map. This paper provides examples of the way the tools can be used. The cultural mapping toolbox provides a practical way to be culturally competent by highlighting the importance of family and community relationships and the ways they operate.


Shen, D., Schellen, R., & Moss, D. (2021). Honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in healing family violence. Retrieved from https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/honouring-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-voices-in-healing-family-violence/


Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.(2021). Keeping our kids safe: Cultural safety and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.Retrieved from https://childsafety.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-06/final-keeping-our-kids-safe.pdf


Thyrber, K. A. et al. (2021). Tobacco smoking and mortality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Australia. Int J Epidemiol, 2021 Jul 9;50(3):942-954. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyaa274


Millar, H. M. et al. (2020). Parents’ and carers’ views on factors contributing to the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 44(4), 265-270. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12992. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1753-6405.12992


Morgan, G., Butler, C., French, R., Creamer, T., Hillan, L., Ruggiero, E., Parsons, J., Prior, G., Idagi, L., Bruce, R., Gray, T., Jia, T., Hostalek, M., Gibson, J., Mitchell, B., Lea, T., Clancy, K., Barber, U., Higgins, D., ... Trew, S. (2022). New Ways for Our Families: Designing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practice framework and system responses to address the impacts of domestic and family violence on children and young people. (Research report, 06/2022). ANROWS.


Aboriginal families strongly impacted by food insecurity, study finds (2022, June 2). Sax Institute.https://www.saxinstitute.org.au/category/news/media/


Emerging Minds. (2022). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/in-focus-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-wellbeing/


Emerging Minds.(2020).Working with First Nations families and children: a framework for understanding.https://emergingminds.com.au/online-course/working-with-first-nations-families-and-children-a-framework-for-understanding/


Appendix 1

CICRT: Continuous Improvement Cultural Responsiveness Measurement Tool.

Bennett, B. & Bodkin-Andrews, G. (2021). Continuous improvement cultural responsiveness measurement tools. Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre. https://www.usc.edu.au/research/indigenous-and-transcultural-research-centre/building-knowledge-systems

Bennett, B., & Morse, C. (2023). The continuous improvement cultural responsiveness tools (CICRT): Creating more culturally responsive social workers. Australian social Work, 76(3), 315-329. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2023.2186255


Definition of Cultural Responsiveness Listen Learn Respond

Cultural responsiveness refers to the ability to learn from and relate respectfully to people from your own and other cultures. It requires openness to experiencing and thinking about things from other people’s points of view. It requires you to adjust your behaviour and language and be responsive to another person’s cultural frameworks (or ways of thinking and doing).


It is beyond learning about other cultures. It starts with ourselves and our ability to see our own thinking and doing (our cultural frameworks) not as ‘normal’, but as the result of our upbringing, learning and experiences. In short, this is the starting point that allows us to see the world from another person’s point of view, and the beginning of our engagement with others.


Culturally responsive practice is an affirmation of diversity, valuing all groups, identities, and cultures within Australia. It integrates respect for this diversity in organisations’ programs and policies. It offers a way to be sensitive to another’s culture, customs, beliefs, values, and behaviours. Awareness of one’s own culture, values, beliefs, traditions, context, and history is central to culturally responsive practice.


Benefits of cultural responsiveness

Cultural responsiveness is important for all social and cultural groups, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

  • refugees or displaced migrants

  • people at all life stages, including end of life

  • people with different abilities, including intellectual and cognitive disabilities

  • LGBTIQ people

  • people from priority populations and subcultures, such as the deaf and vision-impaired community.

Research suggests that providing culturally responsive service has the potential to lead to improved:

• attendance at follow-up appointments and following of recommended treatment

• improved consumer satisfaction

• increased safety and quality assurance

• access and equity for all groups in the population

• better use of resources.


Cultural responsiveness may be viewed as a strategy to enhance the cost effectiveness of service delivery more broadly.


Cultural responsive practice should become integrated into the continuing professional development of social worker throughout their careers.


The Continuous Improvement Culturally Responsive Tools (CICRT)

The CICRT incorporate a four factored approach: (i) a booklet with an in-depth description of seven Ngurra’s plus resources, (ii) an audit tool to provide the current level of individual cultural responsiveness, (iii) a critical reflexive section to guide social workers to transition through reflection, critical reflection and reflexivity, and (iv) a survey of values and actions to identify an assessment of a person’s culturally responsive values and an identification of their current level of action or inaction in respect to cultural responsiveness practices. The survey will enable users to identify areas that require further development and provide them with sufficient information to support and action plan.


The 7 Ngurra’s (camps)


1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement

Social workers will know they are being successful in this Ngurra if they have current and emerging partnerships with community groups, other organisations, and professional bodies to plan, deliver, and monitor effective models of services and partnerships that improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. They will be sharing information and developing networks that celebrate and actively participate in historical events of significance that recognise and promote culture (e.g., National Reconciliation Week, Mabo Day, NAIDOC Week, Coming of the Light, and National Sorry Day).


2. Self-awareness

For individuals, self-awareness involves being able to constantly challenge their assumptions, bias, and preconceived ideas either on their own, with peers, in supervision, or in training. It is critical that all social workers have a deep understanding of their own values, attitudes, worldviews and biases, along with a strong ability to acknowledge how these influenced their practice and impact on others, either positively or negatively.


3. Maintaining accountability

Social workers will monitor progress in addressing inequalities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians and engage with, and develop, their culturally responsive practice. In this way, they can begin to lead by example and model culturally responsive actions via yearly planning processes. Social workers will then advocate to include cultural responsiveness in policy and planning processes with set targets to monitor goals and achievements.


4. Theories and frameworks

A social worker would commit to undertaking regular training and refresher courses, seminars, forums, webinars, and online training opportunities around both skills and knowledges (.e.g White privilege, critical race theory, intersectionality, White fragility, strengths approach, narrative therapy, Dadirri and yarning). They would develop and then implement an action plan for their professional practice with Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related goals (SMART). Social workers actively take opportunities to reflect on practice so that they can change practices and processes that are not culturally responsive, and this involves advocating to the organisation and to colleagues.


5. Reflexive and critical practice

Social workers must learn from this past and listen to the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. A social worker should have a basic understanding of the real history of settlement in Australia and how it has impacted First Peoples. Furthermore, social workers should appreciate the role they can play in sharing this knowledge and building awareness of the need for recognition of these truths. This means they are advocating for their organisation to have an ongoing commitment to reconciliation, sovereignty, and governance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. They will develop policies and programs that consider and respond to the cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


6. Leadership

Leaders are committed to true consultation and empowerment; they aim for real social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Social workers lead a strength-based, nondeficit approach to practice. Individuals try to influence, improve, create change, and set cultural responsiveness targets and indicators for individuals and organisations. They ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel involved, respected, and valued with choices of care. Practices are reviewed and refreshed based on feedback from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, service users, and the community.


7. Cultural communication

Individuals ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service users have access to accredited interpreters and/or Aboriginal support or community liaison workers when this is necessary. Individuals will use cultural ways (e.g., yarning), technology (e.g., audio-visual and social media), and electronic tools to deliver information at the right time, in the right place, and in multiple formats and languages to meet needs.


Goals of the CICRT

The Continuous Improvement Culturally Responsive Tools (the engagement tool) aim to identify ways of strengthening cultural responsiveness between social workers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and stakeholders by creating a continuous quality improvement cycle. The tools have been designed to assist individuals and organisations to move towards culturally responsive practice where cultural differences and strengths are recognised and responded to in the governance, management, and delivery of services. The tools focus on a strengths-based approach.


The tools aim to:

• support social workers to self- assess their transformation towards cultural safety;

• create culturally improved responsiveness practice for social workers within Australia

• assist in identifying knowledge and skill gaps;

• provide consistency of approach across the social work profession;

• improve services and thus the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

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