Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
QCOSS thanks First Nations people for the gift of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We welcome the invitation to walk with First Nations peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
The First Nations people of Australia have lived and thrived as the oldest continuing culture in the world and continue to enrich our country, of which sovereignty was never ceded, with their culture and knowledge.
Despite living and thriving as the sovereign people for more than 60,000 years, the harmful and ongoing impacts of colonisation continue to disproportionally limit the fundamental human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all areas of life.
First Nations people are disproportionately represented in out of home care, rates of incarceration, deaths in custody, experiences of violence and a significantly reduced life expectancy compared to non-Aboriginal Australians.
Creating a culturally safe community sector
There is work to be done to strengthen the way the community services sector deliver services to First Nations people. The sector can actively improve the experience of both service users and colleagues through intentional work to address the gaps we have in our own understanding and skills. By participating in meaningful professional development, reflective group-learning opportunities, and by being supported to incorporate new knowledge into practice, we can continuously improve the way we work.
This should be supported by leadership and strong structural commitments by organisations to continued change-making and growth, through avenues such as a Reconciliation Action Plan.
Path to Treaty and moving forward
The Uluru Statement from the Heart provides a clear path for future generations to live and thrive once again:
“With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood. 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.”
Path to Treaty
In Queensland, the state government is committed to taking a shared journey with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Aboriginal Australians, with the ultimate goal of developing a treaty, or treaties. The Path to Treaty Act 2023 was ratified in May of that year.
The bill provides the legislative framework to create the structures to prepare for negotiating a treaty or treaties between Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Queensland Government. It provides an opportunity for partnership and equity that goes beyond recognition, and navigates a way forward.
Importantly – at the heart of the journey is truth telling and healing. Truth telling is a commitment to listening – unlearning false stories and learning our shared history.
Cultural safety and humility
Cultural humility is the practice of suspending what you know about a person, or what you think you might know about them, based on generalisations about their identity.
Foundational to cultural humility practice is a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation, self-critique and redressing power imbalances in the service provider/client dynamic.
Central to this is recognising, acknowledging, and understanding our own biases and the way they influence how we think about others and make decisions.
This may take the form of professional development or ongoing conversations with colleagues and peers, both inside and outside your organisation, who are committed to practising cultural humility. It is important that your self-reflections do not occur in isolation.
Cultural humility is different from ‘cultural competency’. While cultural competency infers that you could become competent in another person’s culture, in reality, you can never become fully competent in someone else’s culture, no matter how much training, education, experience or interest you may have.
If you are from outside a community, your aim should be to continue to learn and grow as a respectful ally, rather than trying to understand or know a person’s culture, identity or lived experience. Cultural humility acknowledges that there is no end goal to your development (should this be growth or learning) and the way you interact with others. It is an ongoing journey we are on with our clients, service users and peers.
Cultural humility is essential to maintaining cultural safety – a service or environment that reflects the cultural norms and values of your colleagues and services users, and does not prioritise the dominant culture. Providing a culturally safe service or workplace requires acknowledging the impact of institutional discrimination and colonisation. It means creating a space where someone can be their true self and express all parts of their culture and identity freely and without discrimination.
Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP)
Reconciliation Action Plans provide a framework for organisations to realise their vision for reconciliation. A RAP is a practical plan of action that documents an organisations commitment towards contributing to reconciliation in Australia.
A RAP outlines actions that an organisation commits to implementing and measuring, aimed at building respectful partnerships to create social change and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Developing a RAP
A RAP gives your organisation the best chance of achieving equity, and delivering broader outcomes including:
- the opportunity to become an employer of choice in the sector
- a more dynamic, innovative and diverse workforce
- a more culturally safe and inclusive workplace
- access to new markets and improved utilisation of existing markets
- strengthened service delivery
- the opportunity to contribute to new projects, industries, services, products and methods of doing business.
- Find out more about creating a Reconciliation Action Plan
Reconciliation Australia is an independent, national not-for-profit organisation promoting reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Through their programs and initiatives they provide frameworks for action, resources, and policy advice; work to connect people and organisations; and promote success and engagement activities.
Reconciliation Australia support hundreds of organisations across Australia to participate in the RAP program. They will work with your organisation to tailor a plan that suits your organisation’s specific needs. They can provide advice, templates and resources, as well as provide feedback on your draft RAP.
The Centre for Cultural Competence Australia offers foundation level course to improve your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Competence. The resource is available online and is accredited. Successful students will attain an accreditation in Aboriginal Education.
Blackcard offers cultural education workshops, training and consultancy.
WISE Australia offer cultural consultancy and support training, empowering workshops and practitioner debriefing/supervision sessions.
Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
The following organisations offer resources and services that support the social and emotional wellbeing of First Nations children, their families, and communities.
- The Healing Foundation, in partnership with Emerging Minds, have developed a suite of resources giving service providers and parents tools to understand the impacts of intergenerational trauma, and reframe the narrative towards intergenerational healing.
- The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) work to ensure Queensland children are empowered and respected, and that their rights are upheld. The QFCC have a commitment to advancing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait children and families.
- QATSICPP is Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection peak. QATSCIPP provide resources and information to inform practice, including their Centre of Excellence which supports knowledge sharing and practice wisdom.
- Family Matters is Australia’s campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and care for in family, community and culture.
- SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Care) exists to see all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive – growing up in nurturing environments, with loving and supporting families, adequate food and housing, and rich with culture.
Data-driven community profiles
Know Your Community profiling tool
Know Your Community provides key insights into First Nations Queenslanders. It is a community profiling tool which enables anyone to build a community profile containing information and data about Queensland’s First Nations peoples and the communities they live in.
Data is available from a range of topics relating to people and community, work and income, education and training, and housing for any Queensland Indigenous Location (ILOC), Statistical Area 2 (SA2), State Electoral District or Local Government Area (LGA).
Data is from the Australia Bureau of Statistics (2016 and 2021 Census) and has been analysed and stratified against the same data for non-Aboriginal Queenslanders.
Know Your Community has been developed by the Department of Treaty, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Communities and the Arts and the Queensland Government’s Statistician’s Office within Queensland Treasury.
Visit the Queensland Government website to build a profile.
Looking for more information?
AIATSIS is a world-renowned research, collections and publishing organisation. They promote knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures, traditions, languages and stories, past and present.
ATSIDNQ is growing into a network with a strong voice. From the Gold Coast to the Gulf, Toowoomba to Palm Island, there are many ways the network is helping members get connected, such as morning teas, information sessions, Facebook and newsletters.
ATSIHQ is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community housing providers in Queensland. They work in partnership with government and providers to drive sustainable outcomes.
ATSILS aims to ensure that First Nations Australians receive fair and equitable treatment within the justice system. It also acts as an advocate on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare conduct regular research to address information gaps in health and welfare in Indigenous Australians.
A Queensland business directory featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
This toolkit is an online resource developed for First Nations communities, individuals and organisations searching for information to build their governance.
QAIHC is the state’s peak body representing, advocating and supporting the Community Controlled Health Services sector in development and delivery of comprehensive primary health care services to their local communities.
QATSICPP was formed in May 2004 in response to the release of a report by the Crime and Misconduct (CMC) Inquiry. It highlighted that the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people, their families and communities, should be represented effectively. The agency’s focus is to provide a collective voice for the rights and protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.