Section H


Aboriginal employees may experience additional pressures within the workforce and within their personal life which arise from both living and working within the Aboriginal community. These complex issues include managing risks; working with family members; dealing with grief and loss; setting boundaries; managing demands outside of work hours; juggling the roles of both community worker and community member; and addressing professional development needs. These challenges are best addressed through models of support that are reflective, holistic, open, validating, non-judgemental, involving two-way learning, and culturally informed.

Key points

  • Providing support to an Aboriginal employee is a separate process from reviewing performance.
  • The term ‘supervision’ may not be appropriate due to negative associations with justice orders and processes– alternative terms such as mentoring or worker well-being are preferable.
  • Ideally a mentor should be an Aboriginal person that understands the pressures that Aboriginal employees experience. If this is not the case the mentor must have attended cultural awareness training and have a good understanding of the needs of their mentee. The most preferred option is that the mentor is external to the organization.
  • The relationship between the worker and mentor is core to the success of the process. This relationship needs to be built on trust, respect and care for the worker within a safe, confidential and validating space.

Cultural support and mentoring should be supported by clear written workplace policies that specify:

  • the agreed method of cultural support including the aims, objectives, and timing of support sessions;
  • principles to guide employees when working with clients with complex issues (including ethical guidelines);
  • processes for debriefing following critical incidents;
  • cultural leave policies to ensure that the employee can participate in cultural activities (for examples see Section K); and
  • professional development opportunities for Aboriginal staff to address gaps in knowledge.


Title Walk With Us

Employing and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in your organisation.

Author Inner North West Primary Care Partnership
Type Video
Title DHHS Koolin Balit Mentoring Resources Guide

There are a number of frameworks that can be adapted to and/or have already been designed for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce. This reference guide can be utilized to help build a specific mentoring program for individual organisations to help support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the workforce.

Author Department of Health and Human Services (March 2015)
Type Publication
Title Online Mentoring Program This is an online mentoring program comprised of:

  • an online mentoring training kit and is an independent self –paced learning program.
  • links to other online resources about the mentoring process.
  • an electronic mentoring forum in which members participating in the mentoring process can connect and discuss useful questions, scenarios or support each other.
  • Where possible, some mentors and mentees may have an opportunity to meet face to face regularly or on occasions like the IAHA conference or AGM

Author Indigenous Allied Health Australia
Type Online resource
Title Our Healing Ways: Supervision. A Culturally Appropriate Model for Aboriginal Workers

This report explains a model for providing culturally appropriate supervision to the Aboriginal alcohol and other drug (AOD), and social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) workforce. The model is based on the needs of these workers who often face difficult situations in the community, such as working with their own family and friends.

The report includes information on:

  • different types of supervision;
  • results from consultations with workers;
  • the supervision model;
  • training options;
  • resources and references.

This report is one of three key resources produced as part of the Our Healing Ways project. It was developed by the Victorian Dual Diagnosis Initiative (VDDI) Education and Training Unit and funded by the Mental Health, Drugs and Regions Division of the Department of Health Victoria.

Author Victorian Dual Diagnosis Education and Training Uni (2012)
Type Publication
Title Feeling Deadly, Working Deadly: Indigenous AOD Worker Wellbeing Resource Kit including: Working Well: Worker Wellbeing: A guide for Workers

These four TIP Sheets have been written specifically for Indigenous alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers to help them enhance their wellbeing and prevent stress and burnout. They can be used either as a package or individually.

The TIP sheets are part of the Feeling Deadly, Working Deadly: Indigenous AOD Worker Wellbeing suite of resources that have been produced by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) at Flinders University to enhance Indigenous worker wellbeing and reduce work-related stress. The resources were developed following a review of relevant literature; and an extensive consultation process involving public submissions, a national on-line survey, interviews and focus groups.

Author National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (2013)
Type Document
Title Yarning About Work (Mentoring): A Guide For Workers
Author National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (2013)
Type  TIP Sheet
Title Clinical Supervision: A Guide for Workers
Author National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (2013)
Type  TIP Sheet
Title Setting Work Goals: A Guide For Workers
Author National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (2013)
Type  TIP Sheet
Title Models of Supervision for Aboriginal Staff: a Review of Literature

This literature review was commissioned by the Director of Unifam, Clive Price, to inform the development of training courses for Aboriginal staff in Uniting Care Children, Young People & Families (UCCYPF) who have supervision roles; and to consider how all UCCYPF supervisors can provide effective support to Aboriginal staff.

Author Uniting Care: Children, Young People and Families (2011)
Type Publication
Title Understanding the Importance of Cultural Supervision and Support for Aboriginal Workers

This paper was written as a follow on from group discussions in the Western Sydney Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program about social and professional issues and challenges faced by many Aboriginal workers in the community sector, and the support that is needed to address these issues.

Author Western Sydney Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Program 2013 (2013)
Type Publication
Title Ngarngadjil! Listen/Understand! Improving Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Patients (ICAP)Resource Kit

This resource kit provides information for people who are working together to realise the goals established by the Improving Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Patients (ICAP) reform. They include hospital executives and managers with responsibility for, and interest in, improving Aboriginal health programs.

SECTION 3: ORIENTATION AND INFORMATION FOR HEALTH SERVICE MANAGERS at page 89 provides information on human resources management including information on supervision of Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers and cross cultural issues that may arise.

Author Sonia Posenelli, Angela Clarke, Shaun Ewen Nicole Waddell for the Department of Health, Victoria (2009)
Type Resource Kit