Put another witchetty grub on the barbie!

Study the Diploma of CHC52015 Community Services at HETC 

Did you know…

Did you know that larvae and grubs were the original versions of the popular BBQ staple of modern-day Australian culture: shrimp? These somewhat odd delicacies were part of the original Aborigine diet. This culture’s traditional diet, along with countless other special traditions, make Aboriginal Australian culture both rich and fascinating.

Along with their rather unique diet, I bet you didn’t know that the classic childhood game of jump rope is a traditional Aborigine game? It’s okay, we didn’t either!

Aboriginal culture stretches back 60,000 years and it is said to be the longest continuous belief system in the world. The Northern Territory is especially rich in Aboriginal history, and the state is home to many popular tourist destinations, such as Uluru, Alice Springs and Kakadu National Park. Visiting these popular landmarks is a great way to immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture (especially if you have an experienced tour guide)!

While visiting Aboriginal landmarks around Australia may be exciting to many of us, some people desire to delve deeper into Aboriginal culture and work side-by-side with Aborigines within their communities. This kind of community service work has grown immensely in Australia over the past five years, as more younger people have started taking an interest in Aboriginal culture and their traditional way of life.

If you’re interested in working with alongside these fascinating communities of people, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to maintain a sense of respect and to build rapport with people who belong to these sacred groups. Here are three tips for entering Indigenous communities respectfully and with consideration.

Do your research

Before entering Aboriginal communities, it is essential that you research the language, culture and traditions of the particular community you are about to interact with. Just like any other situation, being prepared before entering a new environment will create a much more positive experience for both you and those you are working with. In addition, communities will feel much more honoured and respected if you enter them already knowing a thing or two about their culture. Here are some practical tips to familiarise yourself with a particular Aboriginal culture:

  • Get to know the area you are working in
  • Have a look at maps and familiarise yourself with the Aboriginal language groups in your area and the history of these language groups
  • Research relevant Aboriginal organisations, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and other service providers in the area
  • Organise for Aboriginal staff to hold information sessions within their region to give staff an overview of community history and dynamics
  • Develop useful regional initiatives and resources to educate staff

Source: Working with Aboriginal People and Communities: A Practice Resource, 2009

Understand their history 

In order to respectfully enter an Aboriginal community, you need to have a clear understanding of the history of their culture and some of the tragic events their people have had to overcome in the past. It has been acknowledged that ‘past government legislation enforced on Aboriginal people (e.g. assimilation policies) have contributed to Aboriginal people being one of the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in Australia. The effects of these policies have left lasting inter-generational impacts which need to be addressed’ [1]. As a community service worker within an Aboriginal community, you will have the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of life for this culture that has been disadvantaged and is over-represented in the following areas: welfare systems, child protection systems, homelessness, health systems, juvenile and criminal justice systems and unemployment.

Another aspect of Aboriginal history that has placed them at a disadvantage and requires sensitivity from community service workers is the prevalence of grief and loss issues. These issues are a result of a ‘combination of European colonisation resulting in the forced removal of children and other underlying socio-economic factors’ [1]. Grief and loss issues can result in: mental health issues, self-harm and intentional injury, suicide (particularly with youth), drug and alcohol misuse and addiction, family and domestic violence, general feeling of hopelessness, loss of country and loss of identity [1].

Having an understanding of the history of these Aboriginal cultures is crucial for anyone entering into these communities as an outsider. In order to approach these communities with compassion and sensitivity, you must have empathy for what these cultures have been through in the past.

Learn how to communicate respectfully and effectively 

In Aboriginal communities, an outsider must offer and earn respect, and one can do this through maintaining effective communication with members of the communities. Above all, respect for Elders, the land, animals and ancestors forms the foundation of Aboriginal culture [1]. Learning how different Aboriginal communities communicate with each other is extremely important when building meaningful relationships with members. Here are some tips for communicating respectfully with members of Aboriginal communities:

  • Don’t mimic Aboriginal speech patterns or attempt to speak Aboriginal English, as this will be seen as a sign of disrespect
  • Think about the language used (verbal and non-verbal) when communicating with Aboriginal people
  • Respect the use of silence and don’t mistake it for misunderstanding a topic or issue
  • Always wait your turn to speak
  • Always consult with Aboriginal staff/people if you’re unsure about something
  • Be aware that words might have different meanings in different communities

Source: Working with Aboriginal People and Communities: A Practice Resource, 2009

We hope this three tips will come in handy when you enter an Aboriginal community as a community service worker! If you do your research beforehand and if you maintain a sense of cultural sensibility throughout your experience, we’re confident you will build respect and rapport with the members of a specific Aboriginal community in no time!

If you interested in making a difference within Aboriginal communities in Australia, consider studying HETC’s CHC52015 Diploma of Community Services


[1] Aboriginal Service Branch in consultation with the Aboriginal Reference Group. (2009). Working with Aboriginal People and Communities: A Practice Resource. Ashfield, NSW: NSW Department of Community Services.




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