Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans
The ACT Government is continuing to progress equitable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans with nation-leading approaches and genuine community partnerships.
The ACT Government signed the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2019–2028 on 26 February 2019. The Agreement demonstrates the shared commitment of the ACT Government and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body to deliver real outcomes that improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra.
We then became the first jurisdiction to sign up to the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap on 22 March 2019. This agreement between the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, the states and territories and the Commonwealth Government enables self-determination to define a national way forward to achieve equality for First Australians.
Working together for reconciliation
The 2019 Reconciliation Day event on Monday, 27 May 2019 provided a space for all Canberrans to continue our community conversation about the true history of our city, region and nation and our ongoing journey towards reconciliation. The ACT Government is delivering this annual event, along with a Reconciliation Day Grants Program, with a total of $200,000 a year.
Health and wellbeing
We provide $3.7 million to non-government organisations each year, for a range of specialised and culturally appropriate health and wellbeing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We are investing $300,000 to start planning a culturally appropriate residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation service for the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
The ACT Government will continue to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community provider Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services to extend Yarrabi Bamirr, an intensive family-centric support program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to prevent or delay contact with the justice system.
Other initiatives with ongoing support include:
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Grants Program, funding events and programs within the ACT that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to celebrate or strengthen cultural heritage and promote wider understanding of the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT community.
- The New and Emerging Organisation Support Program provides financial support to Aboriginal owned or controlled organisations that develop and deliver culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the ACT.
- The Strong Families Portal, which provides a central access point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to link to information on whole of government services, initiatives and events.
- The Our Booris, Our Way review, which delivered its latest set of recommendations to government in May 2019, to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.
- Investment in Family Group Conferencing and Functional Family Therapy delivered by Aboriginal controlled organisations to empower families to make decisions about how to keep their children safe within the family and connected to culture.
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Procurement Policy, providing better support and more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprises in our community to work with the ACT Government.
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Scholarship Grants Programs assist recipients to access education and training and to equip themselves with the skills they need to be leaders in their careers and on behalf of their communities.
- The Indigenous Sports Grants Program, which supports individuals to participate in their chosen sport and recreation activities, ensuring opportunities are accessible to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Indigenous Sports Partnered Programs, supporting organisations to provide sport or active recreation programs that increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- The Student Aspirations Program, promoting leadership opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, to support their school retention and attainment.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary and Tertiary Scholarships, for those pursuing a career in teaching or health, or attaining a vocational qualification after year 12.
- Galambany and Warrumbul Circle Sentencing Courts, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel Members assist in the sentencing process by making culturally appropriate recommendations to the presiding Magistrate.
- The Outward Bound ‘Skills for Life’ Program, providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants with a culturally appropriate sentencing option. The program targets women and men aged 18 to 25 years and aims to build resilience, self-awareness, self-confidence, teamwork skills and leadership qualities through gender-specific camps.
- Restorative Justice Indigenous Guidance Partners, who support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants in restorative justice and their respective communities of care after referrals are received, as well as before, during and after conferences. Indigenous Guidance Partners also liaise with police, courts, correctional and community-based agencies to provide information, encourage referrals and to connect clients with other relevant support services.
- The Aboriginal Legal Service, which assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children through representation in court, advice and information, outreach support, referrals and access to brokerage funds.
- The Women’s Legal Centre ACT and Region, which receives ongoing funding to deliver Mulleun Mura, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Access to Justice Program. This program continues to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with access to culturally appropriate case management support for a range of law and justice matters including domestic and family violence, care and protection, family law and employment discrimination.
- Ngurrambai – Bail Support Trial, designed to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on remand, and time spent on remand. Through tailored bail support plans, the program provides assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to secure appropriate housing and access other programs and services relevant to their needs and circumstances.
- AMC NAIDOC Family Day, an annual event for detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations, to bring families together and acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
- The NAIDOC Community Art Exhibition, a partnership since 2013 between the Community Services Directorate and ACT Corrective Services as part of NAIDOC celebrations to exhibit and sell detainee and offender artwork at the Community Services #1 Gallery in Narrabundah.
- The ITCHY Arts Program, focused on art and music, providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees with an opportunity to meet in a safe, culturally appropriate environment. Creating a sense of belonging and pride in participation is intended to assist in rehabilitation, encouraging detainees to engage in other services both within custody and in the community to enhance community reintegration.
- The Culture and Land Management (CALM) Program, a full time, holistic education and employment based program offered at the Alexander Maconochie Centre that integrates many aspects of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture including art, dance, music, languages, kinship, weaving, family history, horticulture, construction, conservation and land management.
- The Elders and Community Leaders Visitation Program, strengthening cultural connection through formal monthly visits to the Alexander Maconochie Centre by local Community Elders and other Community leaders.
- The Dhunlung Yarra Indigenous Counsellor Service, providing fortnightly counselling to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. This is a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander therapeutic service staffed by Aboriginal professionals within Relationships Australia Canberra and Region, with detainee-specific therapy also available on a needs basis.
- Indigenous Pastoral Care, provided to detainees every three weeks under a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chapel service.
Connecting families to culture and community, supporting health and learning
Three-year-old Jarrah* was clingy, with separation anxiety and did not like new places, crowds or unfamiliar people. He would scream and cry if he didn’t want to do something and would take a long time to calm down.
Jarrah’s dad, an Aboriginal man, was exhausted. With his wife at work, he had been caring for Jarrah full-time since he was born.
After a routine health check, the family was referred to the ACT Government’s Child and Family Centre in West Belconnen, where they took part in the Children’s Behaviour and Emotional Wellbeing Clinic and the Centre’s Koori Playgroup.
The playgroup was a relief and respite for Jarrah’s dad, where both father and son could build new friendships, strengthening community and cultural connections, while meeting Jarrah’s care and learning needs.
The playgroup put the family in touch with the ACT Government’s Child Development Service, which arranged a speech and autism assessment. Jarrah has now been provided with support through the NDIS and a place in the Education Directorate’s Koori Preschool Program, where he’s progressing well, improving outcomes for the entire family.
*Not his real name.