Engagement

Useful definitions and key terms

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

The following definition, commonly known as 'The Commonwealth Definition', was given in a High Court judgement in the case of Commonwealth v Tasmania (1983) 46 ALR 625.

'An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives'.

There are three components to this definition:

  1. descent;
  2. self-identification; and
  3. community acceptance.

In practice, it is not feasible to collect information on the community acceptance part of this definition in general purpose statistical and administrative collections and, therefore, standard questions on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status relate to descent and self-identification only.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Identity

  • Aboriginality cannot be judged by skin colour.
  • The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people identify as such because it shows their connection to family, community and country.
  • Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced discrimination and segregation, including through past Stolen Generation policies. This has an impact on their perception of non-Indigenous service providers. Many continue to experience discrimination. Some people will choose not to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to service providers until they gain their trust.
  • Significant grief and loss is experienced in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities nationally. Attending funerals and the mourning period is considered a high priority for all community members.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and community

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considered 'aged' from the age of 50 compared to age 70 for non-Indigenous people.
  • Elders are highly respected in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
  • Not all older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are Elders. Many older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are referred to as Aunty or Uncle by the community. It is protocol to ask the person what they prefer to be called.
  • Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often have a range of community and family responsibilities and are often the main carers for their grandchildren and relatives' children/grandchildren.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are often extended and complex and the 'person responsible' can change regularly.
  • Connection to family, community, land and place is important to the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

An 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community' is defined as a suburb, township or remote outstation in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families reside.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations

In addition to local land councils and land trusts, there are many local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO), including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO).

Cultural awareness

Cultural awareness means understanding cultural difference; cultural diversity and that cultural difference may necessitate a different approach to people of that other culture.

Cultural respect

Cultural respect is attitudes and values that accept and promote the uniqueness, diversity and strengths of other cultures.

Cultural safety

Cultural safety is providing an environment which is welcoming and respectful of the other person's culture.

Self-determination

Self-determination, the right to exercise choice, is a key principle in all land tenure negotiations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is foundational for better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities.

Sorry Business

In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, grief and loss is a significant issue and attending funerals is considered a high priority for all community members. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may receive very short notice about a funeral. Where this occurs, they may not notify others that they are no longer available to attend a meeting that might have been confirmed months beforehand. It is important to always check with your key contact right up until the day of the confirmed meeting to ensure all arrangements are in place and that the meeting is or isn't going ahead.