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This essay focuses on the perspective of working with indigenous people of contemporary Australia and it also includes how social theories affect the service delivery. It is vital to identify the cultural difference between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities because culture influences the success of service programs. The term indigenous person in Australia can be defined as any individual who is identified and accepted to be Aboriginal or a descent of Torres Strait Islander. According to Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, an Aboriginal person is the one who is a descendant of an indigenous occupant of Australia. On the other hand, Torres Strait Islander refers to a descendant of Torres Strait Island. Abbreviation of such names such as “Abo’s” should be avoided when describing Aboriginal people. Definitions based on the race, color and half-caste are extremely offensive, and anyone who uses them is sued.

Working with the indigenous people in Australia, (communities, children, and families) is not an easy task for both policy-makers and practitioners. There are several social problems encountered while working with these people. These problems, therefore, should be approached in such a way that, individual, families, historical and social factors are considered. The indigenous communities in Australia have varying cultures that are dependent on different geographic locations such as remote areas, urban and rural areas.

The services offered to the indigenous people to support them should include the following features: it should be culturally competent, should establish relationship and networks that focus on attracting and retaining the right staff and adopting an action research approach. While working with the indigenous people, it is valuable to note cultural difference that might affect the working relationship. Some of the characteristics of the indigenous people to consider include; communication, agreement, shame, the businesses of the society members and family relationship. The indigenous communities in Australia communicate differently from the way non-indigenous communities speak. Therefore, to promote a friendly working environment, it is important to note this so as to maintain respect and understanding. (Neckowaya,

Understanding some non-verbal elements of communication will help improve the working relationship with the indigenous Australians. One of the elements is eye-contact. When communicating with the indigenous people, eye-contact is the most important element of communication. Some of the indigenous people however do not like direct eye contact because they consider it rude. To avoid such cases, it is important to have a good knowledge of different cultural context for different indigenous Australians. The other element is silence to many indigenous people; silence does not refer to the lack of understanding, but it means they are thinking and listening to opinions of others.(Scougall, 2008).

The family relationship is another key feature that requires proper understanding. Indigenous people of Australia tend to have extended families, unlike the non-indigenous people who have nuclear. The leadership among the indigenous communities is based on kinship where it follows inheritance from one generation to another. The leaders are called elders. Good knowledge of this relationships helps in the success of programs offered to this people because it is a requirement that, the working staff to involve them.

According to Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, (1997), the indigenous people in Australia are facing some challenges. These challenges include racism, marginalization, historical problems and past policies (impacts of colonization, displacement of the indigenous people and missionaries’ effects). These problems have influenced the capabilities and resilience of the indigenous communities. As a result, socioeconomic problems such as violence, trauma, unemployment, poverty and abuse of substances are rampant among the communities. Trauma has negative effects that are trans-generational in nature. Those affected tend to be aggressive and violent. (Atkinson, 2002). Their children are also affected compared to those of non-indigenous communities; they have poor health, low levels of education and poor social background. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW,2009). A survey that was conducted in 2009 in Victoria and southern Australia to show racism incidence and its mental health effects indicated that about 2/3 of the indigenous people face racism either often or more often.

The services delivered to the indigenous people are not always successful because of some reasons. The burden of the workload is too much and demanding, and the working staff is less motivated due to poor remuneration. This makes them deliver poor services, and some of them prefer to seek jobs elsewhere with better pay. An unfriendly social environment such as social control and efficacy, lack of trust and low participation rates, high anxiety rates are some of the common social problems. Use of structures and facilities that are inappropriate affects the logistic services provided. This is attributed to inadequate resources due to lack of support from the government and other key players. Lastly, the responses to the indigenous communities’ problems have inadequate evidence. (Scougall, 2008).

Not all services have challenges to the Australian indigenous society. There are some of them which work perfectly. ( Flexman, 2009, Scougall, 2008). It’s critical to learn from services delivered, that is what works, and this will promote good results for the indigenous society because it gives them a chance to have control over their own social and mental lives. The areas that require more attention in the indigenous societies are economic participation, early childhood education, numeracy and literacy, child mortality and education attainment. (COAG, 2010). The services offered to help bridge the ‘gaps’ created by the above areas are supported by Indigenous reform agenda 2010 and the Australian government through the Council of Australian Government.

The practical applications are principals that are useful in directing service providers on some issues of the indigenous people in Australia. One of the ways of working with the indigenous communities is by getting involved with the people. For an example involving the elders, community at large and even some local working staff makes them be part of the service. (Higgins and Butler, 2007,p.11). Research has shown that services offered to the indigenous communities in Australia works best when there is involvement of the community members especially during the planning and implementation processes. This is because the members of the community understand what they require most, and they can be identified easily. The other principles that can be employed by the service providers while working with the indigenous people includes; making maximum utilization of the existing resources, networks, and services. Some of the services given to the indigenous communities have backup sources from structures or social events. Another principle is taking action instead of too much talks and consultations. Records have shown that some of the service providers focuses on one side and forgets to take action. It is, therefore, important to have a research plan to balance between implementation and consultation. (Scougall, 2008 pp.66-67).

The cultural difference between the indigenous people and the non-indigenous inhabitants has some elements of practice and policy. The services offered to the indigenous communities should, therefore, be culturally competent to avoid poor results. Cultural competency ensures that the aims and the actions of the services, the structure of the service and the selection of the working staff including their training. A culturally competent service structure is the one that is flexible and innovative in answering changes in the communities’ requirements. It also involves the indigenous people and carries out the programs in an informal way. The service delivery cost is also minimized. (Flexman et al. 2009, pp.23-28).

One of the strategies used when offering culturally competent service is by using a language that the indigenous community understand. This could be the use of their first language or getting translators who can ensure effective communication. The other strategy is involving the local leaders such as elders, head of families and even approaching the communities using traditional tools, arts, and food. This will make the working environment friendlier because the indigenous people feel appreciated. (Aboriginal Child Care Agency, 2008).

The service delivered cannot be successful if the staff members are not knowledgeable and capable. The staff with the indigenous people should possess the following feature; ability to work across different cultures. This will enable them to communicate effectively with the local indigenous people and other parties involved. They should also be skilled in specific fields like counseling, leadership development so that the services they offer are of quality. They should also undergo numerous in-service training to learn new skills that are up to date. The staffs are required to be willing to work with the indigenous communities so that a strong relationship is established. This will also inculcate cultural respect to the indigenous people. (Scougall, 2008.pp.53-55.)

Networking and building of strong relationships with government and the indigenous community assists in meeting the needs of the disadvantaged in the Australian communities. (Soriano et al., 2008). Some of the organizations that can offer assistance include family service providers, counseling organizations, healthcare service providers, human rights activists and some local businesspeople. These organizations provides them with financial support, working program and even linkages with other international agencies that support indigenous people, e.g. United Nations.

The adoption of an action research approach is a vital tool during two stages of providing services. These stages are planning and implementation stages. In the planning level, all stakeholders establish the problems and agree on the best ways to address them. The laid strategies should be taken into action and the progress of the program monitored and evaluated. If their goals are met, then they proceed to implement it, but if not, they should plan again. (scougall, 2008.pp.62-65 and Lienert 2002a and 2002b).

A practical example of working with indigenous people is a program that offers education to young people on pregnancy and education. There is a huge gap between the education of indigenous communities and non-indigenous, and the program is trying to bridge it. This program puts into consideration the cultural respect of the local people. It targets the young members of the indigenous community especially those who are in the rural and remote areas. It involves a broad analysis of the needs to ensure that they are met in the program. A flexible approach is also applied which allows careful considerations and includes cultural practices and language issues. Additionally, the program promotes networking, involvement of the indigenous people such as elders and other appropriate stakeholders like the government. (Scougall, 2008).

There are several programs that promote the social and emotional wellbeing of the indigenous people. One of them is social and emotional wellbeing program. The program offers to counsel to the people, and research shows that the people who received it were satisfied. The counseling process used two therapies; individual counselling and narrative therapy. Despite the good outcomes of the program, an evaluation that was carried out also shows that the counselors have varying qualifications and skills that make them suffer exhaustion. (Wilczynski et al., 2007). Mental health program was culturally accepted, and the aim of the program is to provide the communities with traditional healing services, education on trauma and grief and how to manage them. This helped in reducing suicides and improved mental health by involving the client, listening to his/her story and keeping the information confidential. (Westerman, 2010).

The other program is indigenous hip-hop program that helped young members of the society to improve their self-esteem, ability to express their problems including mental health issues to their peers and family members. It makes use of the musical kinds like hip hop, rap and even break dancing to promote positive leadership qualities and mental health. Young people who were offered the program were able to identify signs of depression among other people. Their self-esteems were also raised to higher levels. Motivational care planning is another service providing a program that addresses the problem of mental health such as substance abuse. The program was successful in minimizing the dependence of substance by young people in the indigenous community. It works by motivating the affected through services that help them raise their self-esteem and engage in self-constructing activities like playing football and other events that assists them to be busy.(Hazell, 2005).

Parenting program aims at recuperating parenting ability as one of the methods of promoting health and wellbeing of the indigenous people. (Hoghughi and Long, 2004). This program uses measures such as video recording, interviews, camps and discussion sessions to foster care-giving capability. It mainly targets those families who are facing discord. A case study that was carried out in New South Wales shows that the program raised the parents’ sensitivity and socialization with their children. (Lee et al., 2010). Under-parenting program, there is another program that is referred to as Triple P-Positive Parenting Program. This program is based on social learning principles and is regarded as a behavioral family involvement. It helps to improve the relationship between the parent-child and their behaviors at large.(Sanders 2003). Research records that, good parent-child relationship contributes to the emotional development of the child as well as the wellbeing. This is so because the mother is a role model to the child as she spent most of the time with her.

Social theories are used to examine social issues such as behavior, gender, ethnicity, social structure among many other factors. (Harrington 2005,1). According to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s social theory, the civil society does not work towards promotion of equality in the society. He said that this suppression could be ended if any state or nation makes laws through the government that upholds the rights of equality among the citizens. In the contemporary Australia, this theory is applicable because the indigenous people are disadvantaged and are less recognized leading to unequal treatment. This theory also understands the inequality of education to the indigenous communities in Australia. One of the contributing factors to poor education is remoteness. The remote areas have poor quality teachers who are mostly fresh graduates with less or no experience. These teachers receive high pay and this makes them not to attend schools on a regular basis meaning school attendance in remote areas is inconsistent. The government has failed to provide quality education to these people because there are no quality teachers, learning resources and follow up. The indigenous communities feel forsaken. (Helen Hughes., 2007).

Socio-economic status of people has a direct relationship with the problems that the indigenous people have. For example, poverty is connected to poor health, low income prevents accessibility to education, health, and other services that determine the wellbeing of a person. Poor education and low literacy levels mean the community will face several social problems that include a low-quality diet that is not adequate, congestion in houses and poor sanitation among many other problems. Those who smoke are also said to have low socio-economic status. Research shows that poverty makes people have less control over their lives, and they end up engaging in high-risk behaviors. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001).

Another theory by Lev Vygotsky states that social interactions are key players in learning the process. He said that the social environment was also fundamental in the learning process. The environment is made up of peers, teachers, experts and other people who can influence learning. In the education sector, the teachers, learners, parents and even the government should work harmoniously so that a good-learning environment is set. He continued to say that, for learning to take place, cultural factor such as language plays a major role. The indigenous communities in Australia have different native languages while most of the service providers have a varying language. This makes the service delivery to be difficult because some people believe that the indigenous people should not be taught. When working with the indigenous people, the staff delivering services should include translator if they do not understand the first languages of the indigenous people.

The social determinant theory is based on human rights approach. According to Social determinants theory, inequality and population health are caused by several related social factors. It the mandate of human rights activists to set laws which shows all rights are interconnected, and if one is interfered with, it will affect the other. The human rights, therefore, should give a guide on how programs and policies to the indigenous people work for them. Indigenous health inequality in Australia is indicated by some elements like an unequal right of entry to basic health care services and poor health infrastructure among the indigenous people compared to non-indigenous people. The infrastructure includes; food, sanitation, healthy housing among others. (National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, 2003-2013).

In conclusion, it is important to remember special events that are important to the indigenous people. It is necessary to mark these days so that, the staff members can be given a day off. The members of the indigenous communities should also be encouraged to participate in these events because they touch on their lives. These events are summarized in the following framework:


Harmony Day

This day is celebrated in Australia is a day for celebrating cultural diversity. It is a national celebration for the whole country of Australia. It began in 1999 and were celebrated every March 21 by indigenous communities and across all cultures. Internationally, the day is recognized by the United Nations as a day for eliminating racial discrimination.

Survival Day

January 26 is popularly known as Australian Day. It is a day remembered because it marks the beginning of colonization problems like dispossessions and attack. In this day in Sydney Cove, the first fleet arrived.

National Day of Healing

May every year. It is also known as national sorry day and is held to commemorate the forceful separation of children from their families. This day was recommended by Bringing Them Home Report and in 2005, it was considered a national day so that all the citizens of Australia recover fully.thThis day is schedule to take place every 26

Anniversary of the National Apology

This day is remembered every February 13 each from 2009. The Prime Minister of Australia, Hon.Kevin Hudd moved a motion in the parliament for an apology to the indigenous people because of the loss of their children. “Stolen Generation”. The apology was passed and was treated with a lot of respect.

National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day

The objective of the day is to highlight issues that affect children and how to encourage these children of indigenous people. It was established in the year 1988 and its anniversary is held on August 4 each year.

Reconciliation Week

This week (May 23-June 3) is celebrated for the rich and wide culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Communities. During this time, the indigenous people are assisted to learn new ways of turning the negative experiences into something good. This promotes reconciliation of the people.

Mabo Day (Named Mabo Judgement because it was Eddie’s name that appeared first on the legal documents).

It was believed that Australia was never occupied by any person before it was colonized by Europeans. In June 3, 1992, the motion that the land was never occupied was ruled. This was due to the efforts of an indigenous man named Eddie Mabo and other complainants. It is celebrated each year on the day above.


National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee)

Every first week of July, NAIDOC is celebrated. This day is important to indigenous Australians because it is a day when their culture is acknowledged. This day also closes the gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous people.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

It was founded by the UN General Assembly in 1994 and should be celebrated every August 4. This day marks the decade for indigenous people.

Deadly Awards

These awards are for the indigenous people in the fields of music, community awards, sports, and entertainment. They are given as appreciation to the indigenous people for their achievements. It started in the year 1975 and the days are fixed in the course of every year.

This framework is derived from NSW Department of Community services: working with Aboriginal people and communities. A practical Resource, 1999.


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