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3.4.3 Cultural Support Planning

Last Modified: 18-May-2022 Review Date: N/A

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


Children in OOHC may lose their home, belongings, contact with family members, school friends and their community. The relationship with their parents, siblings and other family members may become strained and more distant. Knowing their own personal and cultural history and experiencing a strong connection to culture can be healing for a child and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Cultural connection builds resilience, which is essential for a child to thrive in their environment, particularly if they have additional stressors such as being away from family and country or are in unstable care arrangements.

A Cultural Support Plan (CSP) is written documentation of how a child's cultural, ethnic and religious needs are identified and the plan for how the Department of Communities (the Department) will develop and maintain that child's connection with the culture and traditions of their family or community. The CSP should be developed in collaboration with the child, their family, and other significant people in the child's life, and must include strategies for developing and maintaining these connections. The cultural support planning process must include consultation with internal and external stakeholders, which may include Elders or religious leaders from the community, or representatives from Aboriginal Representative Organisations (ARO's) or other professional support workers, where appropriate.  

Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders have a right to participate in the protection and care of their children with as much self-determination as possible. 


Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.

  • You must consult with an Aboriginal Practice Leader or other senior Aboriginal worker where the child you are working with or their family is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. When completed, the CSP is to be endorsed by the Aboriginal Practice Leader prior to approval.

  • You must support the child to participate in the cultural support planning process as much as possible, according to the child's age and level of understanding, and the child's family.

  • A CSP must be incorporated into the child's Care Plan, and included in any proposals to the Children's Court (the Court), along with care planning proposals, to demonstrate how the Department plans on meeting the child's cultural needs.

Information and Instructions

  • Cultural safety
  • Cultural Support Planning
  • Consultation and family engagement
  • Engaging children and young people
  • Special considerations for Aboriginal children
  • Special considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse children
  • Writing the Cultural Support Plan
  • Reviewing and monitoring
  • Information sharing
  • Cultural safety


    Consider developing an Aboriginal and/or CaLD practice group within your district with a specific focus on supporting staff in cultural support planning.

    These groups can:

    • create a culture of knowledge sharing
    • encourage peer learning
    • support a questioning approach to learning, and
    • improve cultural appreciation and understanding within the district.

    Cultural safety is about creating a space where a person can feel spiritually, emotionally and physically safe, and able to practice and explore their culture without challenge, denial or assault. Cultural connection is the extent to which a person feels connected to their culture. To thrive in out-of-home care (OOHC), a child requires cultural safety to develop a strong cultural identity and cultural connections.

    Families from CaLD communities, particularly if they have refugee experience, may feel physically unsafe around representatives of the Government, and may be especially vulnerable due to isolation and limited English language skills.

    Casual racism, or even the expectation of racism or ignorance, can be a barrier for families feeling safe enough to engage in planning with the Department. You should spend some time before scheduling a meeting to assist the parents, siblings and family to feel culturally safe enough to engage with you and other workers. Remember, these anxieties and fears will be felt in addition to the usual responses a family will feel when engaging with the Department.


    Cultural Support Planning


    Cultural support plans are an ongoing commitment and acknowledgement that culture is fundamental to the overall wellbeing of all Aboriginal children. You should ensure that important decisions about the child are consistent with their family or community's cultural, ethnic and religious values and traditions.

    The cultural support planning process will help you work in collaboration with the child, their family and community to support the child's relational stability and connection while they are in OOHC. A child with strong links to culture and identity will generally have improved life outcomes and greater resiliency to cope with the impact of trauma.

    A CSP is required only where an Aboriginal or culturally and linguistically diverse child is in the CEO's care, including provisional protection and care, but any relevant cultural information gathered prior to this should be entered into the Child Information Portal (CIP) or the CSP template (see in related resources) and stored on Objective in the case file after an Intake has been completed. Elements of the Provisional Care Plan and the CIP will become the CSP.

    Your first step in developing a CSP should be gathering information about the child's cultural heritage and history. Gathering this information in a manner that is family-led and culturally safe can be a helpful engagement strategy at all periods of contact and can inform assessment at all levels.  Consider who in the family is best placed to provide this information which can be done in consultation with your district APL.

    After identifying the cultural needs of the child, in collaboration with the child, the child's parents, the family and other significant people to the child, determine who is best placed to help meet these needs. For example, specific aspects of lore may be traditionally learned from a particular family or community member. Wherever possible, these traditions and cultural norms should be supported and encouraged. The CSP should include specific strategies and activities for how these needs will be met.

    Any cultural items (such as photos, letters or artefacts) gathered during cultural support planning that are important to the child must accompany the child (along with their CSP) as they change care arrangements and when they leave the care of the CEO.

    Consultation and family engagement


    You must consult with an Aboriginal practice leader (APL) or relevant senior Aboriginal officer when a CSP is being developed for an Aboriginal child.

    Consultation is important for cultural support planning. Consultation with senior staff members is required, but consultation should be broader than within the district and amongst professional child protection workers. Wherever possible, you should also consult with key family members, cultural experts within the community such as an Elder or community leader, or with relevant professionals with cultural expertise outside of child protection.

    Where decisions are made based on information and advice gathered during consultation, include details of this information and who provided it. This demonstrates that cultural advice has been integrated into the plan identifies where decisions have been made with family and/or community participation. 

    Language barriers should be considered where the child, their siblings, parents, other family members or other people significant to the child speak a language other than English as a primary language, or where they have other communication difficulties. This includes offering and providing interpreters and other language supports.

    For information on how to book and pay for an interpreter, refer to Chapter 4.2 Language services – booking and payment.

    Wherever possible you should ensure the interpreter speaks the correct dialect, and that any written documentation is translated.

    Document any occasions where you are unable to organise appropriate interpreting services noting the reason, for example lack of availability. You should not use family members as this may place undue pressure on the family and reduces confidentiality for everyone involved.

    If, after you have considered cultural safety and have offered communication supports, individuals do not wish to participate in cultural support planning, document this on the case file.

    Document all consultations in relation to cultural support planning in Assist using the Case Planning Consultation screen.

    This ensures the information can be found easily when it comes time to writing the CSP and enables data to be collected on consultations. See the Assist user guide in related resources.


    Engaging children and young people


    Having regard to the child's age and level of understanding, you must provide the child with an opportunity to give their wishes and views.

    More confident children may wish to play a leading role in the overall process, other children may only want to provide input into one aspect of the process, such as identifying who should attend meetings.

    Regardless of a child's level of involvement in the planning process, the CSP should create and support links with a child's cultural heritage at a pace the child is comfortable with, taking into consideration their age and level of understanding.


    Special considerations for Aboriginal children


    Many Aboriginal children enter OOHC due to issues related to intergenerational trauma, such as family violence and alcohol and other drug use. Some families have experienced multiple generations of children being removed from the care of their parents. Aboriginal people are disproportionately impacted by racism, poverty, poor physical and mental health, contact with the justice system, and family and domestic violence.

    These issues can prevent families from feeling culturally safe enough to engage in planning with the Department and they may feel re-traumatised when they do.

    You must ensure that the child is supported to develop and maintain connections with the culture and traditions of the child’s family or community.

    Careful planning is required, particularly for children with higher cultural support needs, such as those living away from country, to ensure the child is supported to develop and maintain connections to the culture and traditions of the child's family or community.

    See below for examples of practical strategies for supporting a child to develop and maintain their cultural connections:

    • organising for the child to attend an Aboriginal run school where possible, such as Clontarf Academy

    • regular return to country trips (see further details below)

    • provide carers with a list of common words in the child's primary language to support the child to learn language, and

    • engaging the child in regular cultural activities, celebrations, and events, including with family where possible.

    You should consider any strategy that can maintain a connection with the culture and traditions of the child's family or community in collaboration with the family and ensure this is clearly documented. 

    Care arrangements

    Once a care arrangement has been finalised, the CSP should identify the cultural needs of that child in that specific care arrangement. As each child has different needs, each CSP will look different. For example, a child living in a remote community with a family member will have different cultural support needs to a child living away from country with a non-Aboriginal carer. Where a child is in a care arrangement with a community service organisation, they should be provided with a copy of that child's CSP. For more information on care arrangements, see Chapters 3.4 Care planning and 3.4 Child placement principle.

    Return to Country

    All CSPs for children in OOHC who live away from country should include plans for the child to return to country as regularly as possible, regardless of their age and circumstances. Return to country should focus on the needs of the child or young person and be responsive to their strengths, cultural hopes, aspirations and any worries they may have.

    Planning certain activities may be difficult but are still culturally important and should be organised whenever possible. For example, Sorry Business (an English expression for Aboriginal cultural practices and protocols associated with death) is an important period of mourning for Aboriginal people that involves responsibilities and obligations to attend funerals and participate in other cultural events, activities or ceremonies.

    In many communities there is an expectation that funerals involve the whole community and not just immediate family and friends. Even very young children may have a cultural obligation to attend funerals and this must be managed safely, in collaboration with family and other relevant/significant people.

    You should organise for a child to return to country well before the child is due to travel as it can involve a lot of planning. For example, if the child is connected to Lore obligations, contact appropriate Elders and family members from the child's country to mentor the child and assist them to prepare the child for ceremony. This may need to be discussed and considered at the outset of planning, with practical arrangements being made up to 12 months prior to the actual event.

    Return to country trips are currently funded through Special Purpose Funding (SPF). For more information on submitting an SPF application, see Chapter 3.5 Case Management costs – special purpose funding; major, extraordinary and capital costs.

    When planning for a child to return to country as part of their CSP, ensure the trip is:

    • purposeful: the specific reason and purpose for bringing the child back to country has been identified and planned. For example, pre-arranged specific lore business, and
    • meaningful: this should be determined by the child and their family. The child might want photos or documentation of this trip which, if culturally appropriate, should be supported. Consider if any preparation the child might want or should engage in before they return to country.  

    For more information, see the document Return to Country (in related resources).


    Special considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse children

    Families who identify as Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) are a varied group who have unique histories and experiences, both in terms of their pathway to Australia and once residing in Australia. Some families, particularly those arriving as refugees, face significant individual challenges during their initial settlement period, including trauma, language barriers and discrimination. Many CaLD families will struggle with cultural differences, including different expectations about parenting and the role of the child or young people within the family and community.

    Working with the family and community is the best way to identify the cultural needs of the child and to determine what supports are required to meet these needs. To create a successful cultural support plan, you may need to consider the following:

    • Parents may be isolated and have no extended family in Australia. This can make it difficult to gather information about family and cultural traditions.

    • The family may be socially isolated from their community or may not want their community to speak with the Department. Community Elders may not support the life choices of the parents and the parents may feel discrimination and judgement within their own community.

    • The child may not feel connected to their community, particularly if the parents have their own trauma and have not had positive experiences in their home country.

    • Some families may fear any representatives of the Government and will not feel physically or culturally safe engaging with the cultural support planning process.      

    If family and/or community consultation is not possible, despite making a concerted effort, you should consult with the Principal Planning and Policy Officer – Cultural Diversity from the Specialist Child Protection Unit (SCPU). Senior Child Protection Workers with relevant cultural expertise should be involved, where possible, in any decision concerning a CaLD child in the CEO's care.

    Unless they are specifically taught, children from CaLD groups may not know the history and traditions of their cultural, language or ethnic groups. Not knowing this information can compound a child's sense of isolation. To support the child to feel connected to their culture in a positive way, the CSP should include opportunities and strategies for learning about historical and contemporary role models, important historical events and to participate in traditional celebrations.

    You should focus on supporting a child to learn or maintain the primary language of their family. Without practice, a child could lose the language they need to communicate with their parents and other family members.

    Language is an extremely important link to culture, and it can be extremely distressing for families to they lose their ability to communicate directly without the use if interpreters.                


    Writing the Cultural Support Plan


    When creating a CSP with family, you should ensure that it is:

    Specific: unique to each child and family

    Meaningful: be led by what is important to the child and family

    Assignable: individuals take responsibility for each action

    Reviewable: able to be updated based on changing needs

    Time-specific: action date to be clearly documented 

    The information and planning documented should be driven by the child, their parents, siblings, their family, and community. They are the experts in their cultural knowledge and know how best to maintain the child's connection with the culture and traditions of the family. Do this by having a conversation about how information will be documented and by working through the template with them where possible.

    Once the information has been gathered, use the template to document this information and help you to create a formal document that can be placed on the child's case file.

    The Cultural Support Plan

    You are not expected to have all the information needed to complete the CSP when a child first enters the CEO's care, but the CSP is to be completed when it is provided to Court with the Department's s.143 written proposal.

    You should have the initial outline of the CSP ready for presentation at the 7-day internal meeting. If the family were not known to Department prior to the child entering OOHC, this may be challenging to do in the timeframe and minimal information may be available.  However, if the family has previously been known to the Department or have been engaged in Child Safety Investigations and/or Intensive Family Support, basic cultural information about the child and their family should be known. This information may be collated on to the template and placed on the child's file, but it will not become a formal CSP until after the child has entered the CEO's care. Planning should then commence immediately, and the CSP template moved to the Child History File before it is completed.

    If you identify that there is information missing, or that the CSP is not as comprehensive as required, detail how you plan to gather the information and how you will engage with the family to consider further planning.

    An Aboriginal child in the care of the CEO may hold Native Title rights and interests. For more information on exploring these entitlements, see Chapter 3.4 Native Title.

    The CSP is a 'living' document and should detail on-going cultural support planning and activities. Cultural support planning is continuous and the child's formal CSP should remain a high priority throughout their time in OOHC.


    Reviewing and monitoring

    As part of the child's care plan, the CSP should be reviewed annually and modified when there is a significant change in the child's life, or if the child's cultural needs change.

    A review will be triggered when you learn about a significant change in the child's cultural needs and take steps to modify the CSP. For example, where:

    • the CSP has been in place for 12 months without a review

    • during the annual care planning review process

    • a parent previously unknown is located and engages with the Department

    • changes are made to the child's care arrangement

    • changes to the child's life are likely to have a significant impact on their cultural needs, and/or

    • a referral is made to the secure care facility.


    You do not need to facilitate a review of the CSP if the child's care arrangement is changed as part of scheduled regular short breaks. However, planning regular short breaks should be considered during each annual review.

    You should complete the carer review in conjunction with the CSP review. This will allow you to consider how well the carers have been able to promote the child's wellbeing, their family and interpersonal relationships and to protect the child from harm. The CSP can support carers to build and maintain a child's connection to their family, community, and culture.

    Secure Care

    If you are aware that a referral to secure care is likely to be considered or required, you should review the CSP as soon as possible. Secure care is designed to provide an opportunity for short term, intensive intervention with a child in the CEO's care when they are engaged in high risk behaviours that pose an immediate and substantial risk to themselves or others.

    Secure care has been designed as a therapeutic environment but a young person's experience of being placed in a secure care arrangement may be a very distressing experience for the child or young person. Moving a child from a care arrangement where they have regular contact with family and are moved away from country, is likely to be even more traumatic.

    To ensure there are plans in place to alleviate some of the difficulties a child is likely to experience while in secure care, consider updating the CSP with the following strategies:

    • Arrange for family members to call the child so the child can connect with parents, siblings and other significant people. The child should have an opportunity to speak the language they share with them.

    • Engage the child in cultural activities while they are in secure care. This could include opportunities to make art or music, write stories or to learn more about their "mob's" culture and/or history.

    • Plan for the child to engage in safe and healthy cultural activities and to re-connect with their family, country, language and traditions once they return to their care arrangement.


    If, after the CSP is developed or updated, the child, child's parent/s or carer, or another person who is considered to have a direct and significant interest in the child's wellbeing  is unhappy with the decisions in the CSP, explain that these can be reviewed by the Care Plan Review Panel in the same way that decisions made in care plans can be reviewed.

    Planning to strengthen and reinforce cultural connection is particularly important for a child from a remote Aboriginal community, but it is also necessary for CaLD children and Aboriginal children in the metropolitan area.  Secure care can be experienced as a break in connection with culture for all children, so you should review and adapt the CSP for all children who spend time in secure care. See Chapter 3.3 Secure care arrangements for further information.


    Information sharing

    Provide a copy of the child's CSP to:

    • the child
    • the child's parents
    • other members of the child's family, and
    • other people who are significant to the child, as identified by the child and/or their parents.

    If the family is working with an external agency (such as an ACCO) or an advocacy service who has been consulted in the development of the CSP, the family may choose to provide them with a copy of the CSP or the Department may also decide it is appropriate to do so.

    The CSP must not include confidential information that should not be shared with all participants.