Communities and Justice

How we work with Aboriginal communities

Achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal people, families and communities is our number 1 corporate objective at Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

Aboriginal children, young people and families are over represented across all DCJ service areas. We want to change this and are taking a person-centred approach when dealing with long established issues Aboriginal people may face including accessing housing, experiencing homelessness and children living away from their families.

We are accountable for Aboriginal service delivery that includes Aboriginal people and communities participating in decisions. To do this we are fostering genuine partnerships at the local level.

This page outlines some of the different ways we are trying to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal people, families and communities in NSW.

Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG)

An advisory group of our Aboriginal employees provides consultations and advocacy for our work that may affect NSW Aboriginal families, clients and communities.

ARG members help DCJ build working relationships with Aboriginal Elders, community groups, non-government agencies and individuals to make sure we are including Aboriginal perspectives in projects, programs and policy from the time we first start thinking about them to when they are put into action.

First set up in 1985, our ARG members are elected at a regional level from around NSW.

ARG promotes the inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives across:

  • our policies and programs
  • the development of culturally appropriate practice and service provision
  • issues raised by the Minister or senior executives of DCJ
  • the professional development and training of our Aboriginal employees
  • special projects including the creation of this website.

Building the Aboriginal cultural capability of our workforce

Our Aboriginal clients face additional challenges and barriers to effective service delivery, often due to cultural misconceptions and misunderstandings.

To address this we are developing a number of strategies, including:

  • mandatory cultural capability training to improve our cultural capability, communication and engagement,
  • cultural safety initiatives to improve the DCJ workplace environment  for Aboriginal staff and clients, and
  • additional workforce initiatives to increase the retention and hiring of Aboriginal staff.

We  have developed the Aboriginal Cultural Capability Framework (PDF , 1.7 MB) to guide our work to increase the Aboriginal cultural capability of all our staff including senior executives.

Transforming Aboriginal Outcomes

Transforming Aboriginal Outcomes (TAO) champions Aboriginal perspectives and practices throughout DCJ to ensure cultural safety, dignity, and the pursuit of aspirational futures for Aboriginal people. By aligning with DCJ's commitment to trusted, equitable services and Closing the Gap targets, TAO works to reduce intergenerational disadvantage and systemic overrepresentation.

It is a government-wide responsibility to meet the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. TAO is helping DCJ work towards eliminating racism, providing culturally safe services, partnering with Aboriginal organisations and communities, strengthening the Aboriginal community-controlled sector, improving data sharing, and involving Aboriginal people in decision-making.

Providing support for Aboriginal families 

The early years in a child’s life are important and can set them up for a healthy and happy adulthood. Parents, family and community all play a key role in creating a supportive and nurturing environment for early childhood development.

There are nine Aboriginal Child and Family Centres (ACFCs) in NSW, with plans to open an additional six centres across the state . The centres provide culturally safe services and support for families with Aboriginal children aged up to 8 years.

ACFCs bring together a range of services, including early childhood education, family support, maternal and child health, playgroups and adult education opportunities.

You can view the 2021 Aboriginal Child and Family Centre Evaluation.

Strengthening Aboriginal organisations

DCJ is leading the NSW Government work to strengthen Aboriginal non-government organisations (NGO). This work is  part of the NSW Government’s OCHRE plan. OCHRE stands for Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment and reflects Aboriginal peoples’ deep connection with Country.

Our teams working in the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO), Statewide Services and our district offices are also working together to take a more  inclusive approach to delivering culturally appropriate services.

And we are transferring the management of 20% of AHO properties to Aboriginal Community Housing Providers (ACHPs) by 30 June 2019 to increase the housing choices for Aboriginal tenants and their families.

More housing options for Aboriginal people

The AHO leads our work to ensure every Aboriginal person in NSW has equal access to, and choice in, affordable housing.

We are not a direct housing provider but we work closely with providers to ensure they are accountable for providing fair and equitable services for Aboriginal tenants and their families.

AHO's strategic objectives include delivering 3 key outcomes by 2022:

  • All AHO properties are managed by Aboriginal Community Housing Providers (ACHPs)
  • The AHO’s provider regulatory system is adopted as the National Regulatory Code
  • 1,000 new housing opportunities are provided.

By February 2017 there were 198 ACHPs in NSW managing 4,845 social housing dwellings. Providers comprise Local Aboriginal Land Councils, Aboriginal Corporations, Aboriginal Cooperatives, Aboriginal Regional Management Services and other organisations.

Aboriginal people are over-represented in social housing and the AHO will continue to play an important role in being the voice for all Aboriginal people on housing matters in NSW.

Always considering the impact of our work

Our employees must prepare an Aboriginal Impact Statement (AIS) during the planning stages of new activities aligned to our reforms where that activity is likely to affect Aboriginal people, families and communities.

This tool prompts our staff to ask a series of questions that help them consider how our key reform initiatives will affect Aboriginal people, families and communities and to also develop opportunities for Aboriginal people to have their say.

We believe reforms and activities developed and designed with the participation of Aboriginal people have the best chance of having a positive impact and achieving better outcomes.

An AIS must be completed for:

  • any reform/project or initiative proposal expected to have a significant impact on Aboriginal people, families and communities
  • all cabinet submissions
  • all NSW-led proposals that work with agencies in other states and territories.

Recruitment of more Aboriginal team members

We also continue to recruit more Aboriginal staff for a range of roles from the frontline to our senior ranks. Recruiting more Aboriginal caseworkers to work in the field and our phone services is particularly important.

Aboriginal caseworkers provide an Aboriginal perspective, advocate on behalf of Aboriginal people and provide services to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, young people and families. Aboriginal caseworkers also build strong relationships with partner agencies to support and strengthen families and cultural connections and use their cultural knowledge to help inform and shape service delivery.

Last updated:

21 Jun 2024