Consumer enablement guide

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Aboriginal People and Communities

It is important to recognise and respect the importance of family, community and connection to country for Aboriginal people and communities.

Family and community

Kinship and family are particularly important for Aboriginal people and involve responsibilities that are not typical in non-Aboriginal families. While contemporary Aboriginal families vary widely in terms of their family ties, they generally have a more extensive concept of family than western cultures.

Aboriginal communities are an extension of the family and may be involved in strategies that increase and support enablement. Elders are cultural knowledge holders in the community and may be a source of knowledge for holistic wellness for the mind, body and spirit.

When working with Aboriginal people, try to involve their family, community and Elders, and consult them directly with the person’s permission and where appropriate. You should also think about engaging other key people in the person’s life when delivering healthcare, to support their enablement.

Connection to country

Connection to country or land is important in Aboriginal cultures and can significantly impact how Aboriginal people access healthcare services. It will be different for different people, so explore what connection to the land means to each person and try to incorporate it into their healthcare plan.

Staying on land may also be important, provide treatment locally wherever possible. If out-of-area treatment is required, explain why it is important, where it can be provided, and give them timeframes for travel and treatment if possible.

Culturally responsive practice

Culturally safe and responsive practices are built on a foundation of trust. Many Aboriginal people are reluctant to engage with government employees and organisations, due to the damaging effects of past policies and legislation.

Tips to build trust

  • Do not hurry, allow time for questions and actively involve people in developing healthcare plans and treatment options.
  • Encourage input from family and community members.
  • Listen to the concerns, opinions and beliefs that are raised.
  • Ask permission to work together and develop a healthcare plan.
  • Thank people for their involvement.
  • Always do what you say you will do, being reliable is key to building trust.

The Bringing them Home Report and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2017-2023 may also help you understand the context of Aboriginal peoples and communities.1 2


  1. Commonwealth of Australia: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Bringing them Home Report. Sydney; Commission; 1997.
  2. Commonwealth f Australi: Dept of Health. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2017-2023. Canberra: Dpet of Health; 2018.


Further information

Policy frameworks, agreements and plans for Aboriginal health

Resources for working with Aboriginal people