Cultural capability

Last updated: 30 Sep 2015

This page is: current

Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy

Cultural Capability Framework

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Capability Framework (Framework) provides a basis for building the cultural capability of the Commonwealth public sector. The Framework has been informed by consultation with Indigenous employees, human resource (HR) practitioners, senior APS leaders, Commonwealth agency representatives, state and territory governments and private sector organisations.

The Framework explains the skills, knowledge, and practices that employees need to perform their duties in a culturally informed way. It offers a model to support the development of these skills across the sector.

The Framework supports employees and leaders to:

  • take culturally informed approaches to their day to day work;
  • ensure policy, programs, and service delivery reflect, and are appropriate to, the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • engage effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on relevant issues; and
  • foster workplace cultures that respect and value the skills, experiences, and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and communities.

The Framework is not prescriptive. It provides a basis for senior executives, HR practitioners, line managers to develop practical strategies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural capability in their agencies. Individual employees may also find the Framework useful as a guide for personal development.

Current initiatives

Australian Public Service Commission

The Australian Public Service Commission centrally coordinates and manages APS participation in Jawun secondments with the aim of increasing the cultural awareness of participating employees and their agencies. The APSC coordinates up to 80 suitable APS secondees per annum to undertake projects for Indigenous organisations in urban, regional and remote Australia.

Typically, secondments occur over a period of six weeks, including up to one week for induction. The six week secondments are generally arranged into four rounds across eight regions.

APS agencies undertake a nomination and selection process and are responsible for sending endorsed nominations to the APSC.

How the APSC can assist other agencies

  • The APSC coordinates and manages participation in the Jawun program for APS agencies. For more information please email jawun@apsc.gov.au.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is renowned as the world's premier research, collecting and publishing organisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and languages. It is an internationally recognised leader in setting ethical standards and practices for research, publishing, language revival, cultural collection management and access protocols, and engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

How AIATSIS can assist other agencies

  • AIATSIS will provide assistance to agencies on the appropriate use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols, including Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners.
  • AIATSIS can share publications and resources, where available, derived from research including the Australian Aboriginal Studies journal, and published works by Aboriginal Studies Press. For more information, please email reception@aiatsis.gov.auNote: In some instances assistance and resources are available on a fee-for-service basis.

AIATSIS also makes the following publications available:

  • Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS). GERAIS aims to ensure that research with and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples follows a process of meaningful engagement and reciprocity between the researcher and the individuals and/or communities involved in the research.
  • Towards Cultural Proficiency—A Phased Approach to Building Cultural Capability 2013–2015
  • AIATSIS Cultural Competence Guide for Supervisors 
  • AIATSIS Cultural Competence Guide for Supervisors and Mentor Toolkit
  • These resources are shared on Govdex. To apply to join the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Govdex community please email diversity@apsc.gov.au.

Department of Education and Training

The Department of Education and Training has mechanisms in place to regularly promote and facilitate discussions to share learnings and best practice in relation to Indigenous policy matters.

Education makes a range of internal and external cultural awareness training and learning resources available on its 'Indigenous Cultural Awareness Learning and Development tools' intranet page.

Education has created Respecting Country and Cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples guidelines that include information on acknowledging traditional owners and organising a welcome to country.

How Education can assist other agencies

  • Education will facilitate other agencies' involvement in its policy and programme discussions. For more information, please email Diversity@education.gov.au.
  • Education can share information on its cultural awareness and learning resources with other agencies. For more information, please email learning@education.gov.au
  • Education can share its Respecting Country and Cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples guidelines. For more information, please email Diversity@education.gov.au.

Department of Defence

The Department of Defence has developed the Cultural Awareness (Indigenous) Learning Framework. The framework is structured to provide a five-tiered approach to training which incorporates culturally appropriate content within existing Defence training material, including the material used by recruit schools, promotion courses and staff college.

The framework is currently being rolled out to all Defence training establishments.

Defence offers an e-learning Indigenous cultural awareness training package which is available online for all Defence members. While the training is not compulsory, over 9000 members have already completed the course.

How Defence can assist other agencies:

  • Defence's e-learning cultural awareness training package is available on Govdex. To apply to join the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Govdex community, please email diversity@apsc.gov.au.

Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services works with staff at all levels to build mutual awareness and appreciation of the expertise and cultural contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff bring to the Department.

DSS delivers a Cultural Appreciation e-Learning Program (CAP) that focuses on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues to build individual skills, knowledge and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, cultures and issues.

The CAP is aligned to the NSW TAFE accredited Course in Aboriginal Education.

DSS has developed a guide to support supervisors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. This guide is an initiative of the 2013-15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy, which highlights effective supervision as a key strategy in retaining and developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

The guide consists of three parts:

  • the role of a supervisor and effective supervision;
  • understanding cultural factors which may impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff; and
  • supporting career aspirations and development.

How DSS can assist other agencies:

  • DSS provides advice to other agencies wishing to develop cultural awareness training. For more information, please email IndigenousWorkforce@dss.gov.au
  • DSS can make its guide for supervisors available to agencies. For more information, please email IndigenousWorkforce@dss.gov.au. The guide is also available on Govdex. To apply to join the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Govdex community please email diversity@apsc.gov.au.

Australian Taxation Office

The Australian Taxation Office's current cultural awareness training is being updated. It will be made available via GovDex once finalised (anticipated from 2016).

The ATO participates in the Jawun APS Secondment program and Executive Visit program. A minimum of five ATO employees undertake six-week secondments with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities each year. In 2015 approximately 20 ATO employees will participate in this program.

How ATO can assist other agencies:

  • The ATO provides advice to other agencies wishing to develop on line and face to face cultural awareness training. For more information please email indigenousliaisonofficer@ato.gov.au.

Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services has developed an Indigenous Cultural Capability Framework. The framework is designed to increase employees' knowledge and understanding of Indigenous people and their communities and to reflect cultural awareness in our internal and external relationships.

Cultural awareness training

Tier 1 eLearning is mandated for all employees, excluding Senior Executive Service Officers (SES).

Tier 2 is facilitated learning for all employees. It is regarded priority learning for those employees who have a role in the development and delivery of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers and employees. DHS also requires all SES Officers to take part in specific facilitated cultural awareness training—'Exploring Culture for Senior Executives'. The Department ensures that staff on recruitment selection panels have completed Indigenous cultural awareness training.

Tier 3 increases the DHS's participation in local and national events. Indigenous immersion programs and other Indigenous experiences are personalised to meet an individual employee's learning requirements.

Immersion programs

The Department offers staff the opportunity to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities around Australia. These first-hand experiences, which can go for up to twelve months, give staff the chance to share their knowledge and to gain a greater understanding of the rich culture and challenges found in each community.

DHS facilitates:

  • short-term and long-term secondments
  • executive visits
  • three-month placements for staff in the National Graduate Program
  • a pilot secondment program with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

DHS can assist other agencies by:

  • providing advice to other agencies wishing to develop Indigenous cultural awareness training.
  • offering its Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training on a fee-for-service basis to other agencies across the Commonwealth.
  • delivering Senior Executive Service Indigenous cultural awareness training 'Exploring Our Culture' Part I and Part II on a fee-for-service basis.
  • providing advice on developing, managing and/or accessing immersion programmes.

For more information, please email GMPEOPLECAPABILITY@humanservices.gov.au.

Department of the Environment

The Department of the Environment provides opportunities to senior executives to increase their cultural capability through direct engagement, such as visits by Indigenous delegations and participating in significant communication or cultural events.

Environment provides opportunities for all staff to participate in cultural awareness training, recognising the valuable and significant contribution that can be made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through their connection with and responsibility for land, water and heritage.

Environmentt has a number of useful publications for Indigenous engagement including Ask First: A guide to respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' heritage places and values. This is promoted internally and externally as a best practice industry guide for dealing with Indigenous heritage issues.

How Environment can assist other agencies:

CSIRO

CSIRO has delivered the 'Seeing Through Both Eyes' cultural awareness program since 2007. This program enables participants to engage with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities in a more effective and meaningful way.

CSIRO recognise the importance of engaging with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities especially where our activities have potential impact. The 'Seeing Through Both Eyes' program enhances participants' understanding of some of the issues that influence the lives of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The program aims to:

  • Recognise Indigenous knowledge systems within science and establish this as part of CSIRO culture.
  • Contribute to more effective communication, engagement and partnering with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
  • Provide participants with the tools needed to build and maintain relationships between CSIRO and Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Build greater awareness and understanding of the:
  • Potential impact of CSIRO activities on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
  • Value that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities can bring to scientific research.
  • Issues that impact on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
  • Diversity of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban, rural and remote communities.
  • Cultural and structural barriers that inhibit effective communication, negotiation and consultation with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

How CSIRO can assist other agencies

  • CSIRO is able to provide advice to other agencies wishing to develop and establish cultural awareness training. For more information, please email donna.smith@csiro.au.

Attorney-General's Department

The Attorney-General's Department (AGD) has a number of measures in place to support cultural capability:

Protocols guide

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Protocols Guide was developed by the Attorney-General's Department's Indigenous Employee Network in collaboration with other key areas across the Department to assist all staff to engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures in a way that is appropriate, and consistent with cultural protocols.
The guide provides useful advice on using terminology and supporting Indigenous business, and also identifies sensitivities that employees should be aware of in their dealings on Indigenous matters.

This is an important step in appropriately acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, sharing cultures and breaking down barriers that hinder Reconciliation.

Cultural events

The Attorney-General's Department provides opportunities for employees to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, specifically through NAIDOC and National Reconciliation week events.

Indigenous culture is celebrated in a number of ways across the Department, including flag raising ceremonies, cultural excursions and Indigenous painting and cooking classes.
This kind of experiential learning is unique across the APS and demonstrates an innovative means for all employees to share and experience Indigenous culture.

Cultural awareness training

The Attorney-General's Department offers cultural awareness training that:

  • forms part of the Department's induction program
  • is delivered through several mediums
  • is available as a refresher course.
  • All new starters complete the training as part of the induction program.

How AGD can assist other agencies

  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Protocol Guide is available on Govdex. To apply to join the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Govdex community please email diversity@apsc.gov.au. Alternatively, a copy can be obtained by emailing peoplestrategy@ag.gov.au.
  • The Department will share with agencies lessons learned from experiential learning initiatives. For more information, please email peoplestrategy@ag.gov.au.

Australian Federal Police

Good practice

As part of their induction, all sworn AFP recruits receive cultural awareness training delivered by MION Representatives.

The training is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the historical and contemporary issues experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities and how this impacts upon AFP staff in external and internal workplace settings.

As part of the Directions Program Traineeship, all business areas sponsoring a Trainee also receive Cultural Awareness training. This assists in understanding the significance of identity and culture, developing cultural sensitivity and the provision of better support to Trainees.

How the AFP can assist other agencies

  • The AFP can share lessons learned from developing and implementing Cultural Awareness training.

For more information email: MION-Executive@afp.gov.au

Commonwealth agencies can subscribe to the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy GovDex site for more information about these initiatives. Email diversity@apsc.gov.au to subscribe.