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
- Commonwealth of Australia: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Bringing them Home Report. Sydney; Commission; 1997.
- Commonwealth f Australi: Dept of Health. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2017-2023. Canberra: Dpet of Health; 2018.
- Auslan SignbankOrganisationAuslan SignbankDescriptionAuslan Signbank is a language resources site for Auslan (Australian Sign Language) which includes a dictionary, searchable database of signs, links to Auslan classes and other resources.Licensing/Cost--
- Bringing them Home ReportOrganisationAustralian Human Rights CommissionDescriptionReport of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families April 1997Licensing/Cost--
- Closing the GapOrganisationDepartment of the Prime Minister and CabinetDescriptionClosing the Gap aims to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.Licensing/Cost--
- Cultural Competence in Working with People from Refugee Backgrounds Workshop Booklet (2015)OrganisationNSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)DescriptionThe workshop framework considers the impact that torture and other traumatic experiences in the context of persecution, political conflict, organised violence and forced displacement, have on resettlement processes, understanding a new culture and finding a sense of belonging in Australian society.Licensing/Cost--
- Exploring the role of self?management programmes in caring for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Melbourne, AustraliaOrganisationHealth ExpectationsDescriptionArticle that examines the extent to which a self-management program required modification for people with chronic illness from Vietnamese, Greek, Chinese and Italian communities.Licensing/Cost--
- Families and cultural diversity in AustraliaOrganisationAustralian Institute of Family StudiesDescriptionFurther reading on Aboriginal family life and values.URLLicensing/Cost--
- Indigenous HealthOrganisationThe Department of HealthDescriptionInformation about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health activitiesLicensing/Cost--
- Multicultural Health Communication ServiceOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionProvides multilingual resources, translation service, information and advice, support for research with CALD communities, support for communications activities and events.Licensing/Cost--
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023OrganisationThe Department of HealthDescriptionWeb page includes link to the 2013-2023 Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and other relevant documents.Licensing/Cost--
- National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peopleOrganisationRACGP & NACCHODescriptionA guide to best practice preventive healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. You can also access The National Guide Podcast and other resources from this page.URLLicensing/Cost--
- National Relay ServiceOrganisationNational Relay ServiceDescriptionA phone solution for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment.Licensing/Cost--
- National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023OrganisationDepartment of the Prime Minister and CabinetDescriptionThis Framework provides a dedicated focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing and mental health. It sets out a comprehensive and culturally appropriate stepped care model that is equally applicable to both Indigenous specific and mainstream health services.URLLicensing/Cost--
- NSW Health & Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee NSW Memorandum of UnderstandingOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionThe Memorandum of Understanding sets out the requirements for accredited chaplains to provide chaplaincy and pastoral care services in the NSW Health system.Licensing/Cost--
- NSW Health: Health care interpreting and translating servicesOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionFree service for NSW Health, government funded NGOs and other NSW government organisations Fee for service also available to others. Page includes links to LHD interpreter and translation services.URLLicensing/Cost--
- Policy Directive: Interpreters – Standard Procedures for Working with Health Care InterpretersOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionThis Policy Directive describes when and how to work with health care interpreters to support safe, effective and clear communication between health staff and patients, their carers and families.Licensing/Cost--
- Promoting Refugee HealthOrganisationFoundation House – The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture IncDescriptionA online guide for doctors, nurses and other health care providers caring for people from refugee backgrounds.Licensing/Cost--
- Refugee Health Network of AustraliaOrganisationRHeaNADescriptionThe Refugee Health Network of Australia (RHeaNA) is a national network of health and community professionals who share an interest and/or expertise in refugee health.Licensing/Cost--
- Respecting Patient Privacy and Dignity in NSW Health Eight ways to make a differenceOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionA guide for NSW Health employees about respecting patient privacy and dignity, including respecting and responding to cultural and spiritual needs.Licensing/Cost--
- TIS – National Translating and interpreting serviceOrganisationDepartment of Home AffairsDescriptionFree service for private medical practitioners, general practice staff, pharmacies, private allied health, emergency services, NGOs and others.Licensing/Cost--
- Towards better health for refugee children and young people in Australia and New ZealandOrganisationRACPDescriptionA report of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians that collates the literature and proposes recommendations to improve the delivery of healthcare to refugee children and young people.URLLicensing/Cost--
- Translation ServicesOrganisationNSW HealthDescriptionTranslation services information package and guidelines for health staff.Licensing/Cost--
- Trauma-Informed Care and Practice in Mental Health ServicesOrganisationACI Mental Health NetworkDescriptionA project that aims to improve the experience of care for consumers, families and staff through the provision of Trauma-Informed Care and Practice in mental health services. Includes links to further reading.URLLicensing/Cost--
- Using interpreters: a guide for GPsOrganisationRACGPDescriptionArticle outlining Australia’s system for providing interpreters for medical consultations and optimal ways of working with interpreters. Reprinted from Australian Family Physician Vol. 39, No. 4, April 2010.Licensing/Cost--