Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures hold a unique and important place in the Canberra community and Australian society. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people face systemic disadvantage, discrimination and continue to be affected by actions of the past, including colonisation and the Stolen Generations. There are clear disparities across all indicators of health and quality of life between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a median age of 20 years, which means that 50% of the population is aged below 20 years.[1] People who work with young people have the unique opportunity to acknowledge the disadvantage and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and take steps to addressing this by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their communities. This requires workers to have an understanding of an individual’s personal and cultural history and a willingness to work flexibly and holistically.

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2004. Australia’s Young People 2003. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/phe/ayp03/ayp03-c02.pdf

Note: All services on CNCT are available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young

Ways of Working

This Ways of Working has been developed in collaboration with Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation and incorporates some of the findings presented by the Institute for Child Protection Studies at the ‘Listening and Responding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people: Learning’s from the Out of Home Care Forum’.

The following tips and principles provide some first steps to assist you to make your practice and service more culturally appropriate and accessible to diverse needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people:

  • It is OK to ask someone if they’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Young Aboriginal people in Canberra often come from all over the country, and will have a variety of beliefs and traditions. Young Torres Strait Islander people can also come from different areas in the Torres Strait Islands.
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, like non – Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, are not homogenous (the same).
  • Be careful not to make assumptions or stereotype the young person. Different young people will be in touch with their culture in different ways – some may know a lot and some may know a little.
  • Young people may choose to access a variety of services and they should be told about the choices that are available to them. Young people are individuals with individual needs. For example, one young person may want to access an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander specific service whereas another may not. People who work with young people need to be understanding and supportive of individual young people’s choices.
  • All services should be accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.  It is important not just to refer on. Remember, it is OK to call an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander service for advice.
  • Display and promote positive messages. You could put up posters, paintings and get a map of Aboriginal Australia in your service. You could also subscribe and read Deadly Vibe[1] and the Koori Mail.[2]
  • Many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander services in the ACT have a huge demand placed on them, so it may take time to build relationships with Indigenous services.
  • Young people want to participate in regards to decisions about culture and the way they connect with their community. They want to be given a voice and to be able to talk about concerns. When you ask a young person for their opinion, be sure to follow it up afterwards and communicate it back to them.

It must be understood and respected for the protocol, that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person cannot generally speak about or on behalf of another person’s country, unless given permission by the custodians or traditional landowner to do so.

[1] Deadlyvibe  can be accessed at http://deadlys.vibe.com.au/vibe.asp?pageID=1871.

[2] Koorimail can be accessed at www.koorimail.com.

More Information

Below is a list of other relevant resources and information related to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Inslanders.

Provides a demographic profile and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People living in the ACT. Data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Published 2004.

Web: www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/1872/social_cultural.pdf

The fourth progress report on how far the recommendations of the 1997 Bringing

Them Home report have been implemented in the ACT. Published 2007.

Web: www.johact.org.au

A practical guide to assist organisations to:

  • Document knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture;
  • Assess practice in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and,
  • Plan to develop your service to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Web: www.actcoss.org.au/publications/Publications_2009/2109PAP.pdf

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Includes resources for students and teachers.  Published 2003.

Web: www.hreoc.gov.au/bth

Managed by the Department of Education and Training on behalf of education systems nationally

The Racism. No way! project aims to assist school communities and education systems to recognise and address racism in the learning environment. The project is an initiative of the Chief Executive Officers of education systems across Australia. There are fact sheets, information, frameworks, games and strategies. This is an interactive website.

Web: www.racismnoway.com.au

ACT Heritage Council, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, ACT Government

Provides information on Aboriginal, historical and natural heritage places and objects.

Phone: (02) 6207 2160

Email:  heritage@act.gov.au

Web: www.tams.act.gov.au/live/heritage/aboriginal_heritage_in_the_act

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Information provided includes laws, government policies, statistics and academic research. It brings all the major issues together and presents reliable information in an easy-to-read publication. Published 2005.

Web: www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/face_facts/

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

An overview of Indigenous Australian traditions. Published 2004.

Web: www.abc.net.au/religion/stories/s790117.htm

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Social justice is about making sure every Australian – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – has choices about how they live and the means to make those choices.

Social justice is grounded in the practical, day-to-day realities of life. Published 2004.

Web: www.hreoc.gov.au/Social_Justice/info_sheet.html

The Australian Government Directory Indigenous Services has contact details of Indigenous organisations listed under various categories.
Phone: (02) 6231 2052 
Email: production@agd.com.au

Australia Museum

Provides information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and histories, includes a timeline from pre-contact to 2000.

Web: australianmuseum.net.au/Indigenous-Australia-Timeline-1970-to-present/

Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, ACT Government

Provides a brief overview of why ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies are important, and the contact to the register, which lists the Ngunnawal Elders who have nominated themselves to provide ‘Welcome to Country’ speeches at ACT events.

Phone: (02) 6207 1667

Email: oatsia@act.gov.au
Web: www.dhcs.act.gov.au/matsia/atsia/welcome_to_country

More Information

Temporary accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

P: (02) 6296 5924 

e: ahlmarketing@ahl.gov.au

web: www.ahl.gov.au/5555/ABOUT/

Location: 46 McGivern Crescent, Kambah 

The AJC is committed to seeking solutions to address the Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system.

P: (02) 6162 1000

e: info@actajc.org.au

web: www.actajc.org.au 

Location: Level 3 Griffin Centre Genge St Canberra ACT 2600

Conducts community consultations for the Chief Minister’s Department concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

P: (02) 6205 0523

Location: 4th Floor, ACT Administrative Centre, London Circuit, Canberra 

Provides facilities for meetings, events, functions and cultural activities.

P: (02) 6251 0118

e: info@burringiri.org.au

web: www.burringiri.org.au

Location: Lady Denman Drive, Yarramundi Reach

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