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3.2 Aboriginal Children and Children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds (CaLD)

Last Modified: 04-May-2017 Review Date: 01-Jun-2019


​​To provide information to residential care workers about the principles, requirements and cultural considerations which are applied when providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and children of culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds.

Practice Requirements

  • ​​​Residential care workers must consider the specific cultural, language and religious needs of all children and do all that is practical to implement the child’s cultural plan. 
  • Residential care workers must access child’s Cultural Plan, which is part of the care plan. 
  • When working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, allow time for them to yarn about their “story” which is integral to building rapport and connections with the child. 
  • Respond to the immediate and/or special requirements of the child arising from cultural and/or religious observances. Residential care workers must find out about, and respond to, the child’s: 
    • religious observance requirements (such as access to prayer mat and ablutions area for prayer, periods of fasting) 
    • dietary requirements (provision of halal foods) 
    • cultural obligations (attendance at funerals, Sorry business, Lore) 
    • dress observances (for example, checking if it is appropriate to ask a child or young person to wear second-hand clothing). 
  • Report back to the child’s case manager any behaviour that may indicate the physiological and/or psychological consequences of refugee trauma, so that specialist services can be engaged for the child. Some behaviours to watch for are: 
    • sleeping problems, including nightmares; 
    • headaches, stomach problems, rashes; 
    • anger, irritability, confusion, and/or 
    • depression, not being able to see a future for themselves​​.


  • Overview
  • Additional care considerations
  • Overview

    ​There are specific provisions in the Children and Community Service Act 2004 (the Act) to meet the cultural and identity needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: 

    • Section 12 of the Act sets out the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle and the priorities in which Aboriginal children in the care of the CEO are to be placed. 
    • Section 81 of the Act requires that appropriate consultation occurs before an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child can be placed.​ 

    The Department’s Child Placement Principle provides information about the legislative principles, practice requirements and cultural considerations which must be applied when providing any child with a placement arrangement. It includes information on the special considerations that must be afforded to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children and children with culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds. 

    For more information refer to: 

    • Casework Practice Manual entry Child placement principle
    • the Department’s Aboriginal practice leaders based in each district office, the Aboriginal practice leader for Residential Care, or the Aboriginal Engagement and Coordination Unit, and 
    • the Department’s Principal Policy and Planning Officer - Cultural Diversity, Service Delivery Practice Unit, other relevant CaLD Officers, or the CaLD SharePoint Resources Library

    Additional care considerations

    ​Additional considerations for residential care workers caring for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children or children with culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds 

    Use appropriate communication and interviewing strategies. The Casework Practice Manual entry Language services – booking and payment provides information and resources to assist residential care workers to communicate with children with limited English language proficiency. Residential care workers may also contact the Aboriginal Engagement and Coordination Unit and the Principal Policy and Planning Officer - Cultural Diversity, Service Delivery Practice Unit for information on translating services in WA. 

    In general, where English proficiency is limited, engage an interpreter from the same ethnic, religious and gender background as the child. 

    On some occasions, the child may not want to speak to an interpreter based in WA because they are from the same community. In these instances, engage a telephone interpreter who is based in another Australian state. 

    It is important to recognise the diversity of Aboriginal cultural and language groups in Australia. Communication among Aboriginal people in metropolitan Perth is typically a dialogue consisting of a combination of English, Noongar and Aboriginal English. Body language plays a very important part in communication with Aboriginal people. 

    Using uncomplicated language and terminology is important for engaging and connecting with Aboriginal cultural groups. 

    • Speak clearly and simply. Be mindful that in some communities English may not be their first language. 
    • Avoid using acronyms and labels such as client, patients, clinical psychologist, and professional. Instead use words such as family member, participants, Aboriginal person, and worker. 
    • If necessary, seek clarification from the Aboriginal person that they have understood you. 
    • Do not rush introductions at the beginning of a conversation. You could begin with introducing yourself, where you are from, your family, your background (“your mob”) and then give a full description of your role, your “story”. Who you are is more important than what you are; highlight any connections you may have with people they may know in their community. 
    • Do not start a conversation with open‐ended questions as it puts too much pressure on the Aboriginal person to “open up”. Ask about their “story” and family (“their mob”). Aboriginal people like to consider questions and information at length before replying. Quick replies can be seen as impolite. Allow periods of silence. Too many questions can be seen as an invasion of privacy. 
    • Be mindful of diverse attitudes towards personal space and touching, and diverse meanings for hand and facial gestures, tone of voice and eye contact. 
    • Refrain from direct consultation with community groups and organisations from the same cultural or ethnic background unless you have consent from the child, Aboriginal practice leader or the child’s case manager beforehand. There may be unintended consequences of such consultations. 
    • If the child identifies as both Aboriginal and another culture, it is important to note this, but the focus of the Cultural Plan is to maintain links with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage of the child. If they do not identify strongly with the Aboriginal culture, the cultural plan should support the child’s linkages back into the Aboriginal community at a pace that suits the child. It is important to ascertain where the child feels a strong sense of belonging, and maintain their family, spiritual and cultural connection to this area. 
    • Consider if there may be any gender issues that may come into play in the engagement process. As a general rule, ask the child if he or she is comfortable when a member of the opposite gender is involved in the interactions, for example, men’s business or women’s business. It is always respectful to ask. 
    • In Aboriginal culture some topics may not be openly discussed, such as bereavement (Sorry business); death (not using the name, or showing pictures of the deceased); ceremonial business; sexuality and fertility (use professionals of same gender); and domestic habits. 

    For more information about physiological and/or psychological consequences of refugee trauma refer to the CaLD SharePoint Resource Library or the Principal Policy and Planning Officer – Cultural Diversity, Service Delivery Practice Unit.​


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