Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander actions
The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) respectfully acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians, and pays its respects to elders past and present. We are committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers and communities to achieve our vision for reconciliation.
This page includes resources and information about the AASW’s position and engagement on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
National Reconciliation Week 27 May - 3 June: Be Brave. Make Change.
Elizabeth McEntyre - social worker
Elizabeth McEntyre - Worimi woman and social worker tells us what Reconciliation means to her for National Reconciliation Week 2022. Be Brave. Make Change.
Rowena Hammond - social worker
Rowena Hammond - Peramangk woman and social worker tells us what Reconciliation means to her for National Reconciliation Week 2022. Be Brave. Make Change.
Sorry Day 2022 - 26 May
Today, we say sorry. We acknowledge the gross injustices perpetrated against the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We reflect on the widespread dispossession of land, culture, spiritual beliefs, family and way of life. We recognise that we have a long journey yet to heal past and intergenerational trauma. We celebrate the incredible strength and resilience First Nations people, past present and future, who continue rich, diverse and extraordinary cultures.
Today the AASW walks side-by-side with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in solidarity, healing and justice.
26 January 2022
26 January is a day to reflect on our nation’s true history, as 2021’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year AJ Williams-Tchen says.
Social Work Focus
Each year, we celebrate Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander social work with a special edition of our member magazine, Social Work Focus. See our last two special editions below.
National Reconciliation Week 27 May - 3 June 2021: More than a word. Reconciliation takes action
We celebrate this National Reconciliation Week 2021, and its theme More than a word: Reconciliation takes action. We also acknowledge 26 May, which is Sorry Day, the day before NRW2021. Please read the AASW's 2004 Statement of Apology.
With recent Black Lives Matter protests and growing numbers of people at Invasion Day rallies, people are becoming more understanding of and speaking up on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year's theme, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, asks people to take this awareness and knowledge, and use it as springboard to more substantive, brave action.
There are many National Reconciliation Week events to attend both online and in-person, all are available on the Reconciliation Australia webpage.
NAIDOC Week 8-15 November 2020 - Always Was, Always Will Be
NAIDOC Week 2020 runs from 8 to 15 November and is a is a time for us all to come together to celebrate and honour the history, culture and the achievements of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people which dates back thousands of generations.
This year’s theme for NAIDOC is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, a recognition and acceptance that for more than 65,000 years the land on which we live and work was and is first and foremost Aboriginal land, has always has been Aboriginal land, and sovereignty was never ceded.
National Reconciliation Week 2020: In This Together
We celebrate this National Reconciliation Week 2020, and its theme In This Together. We also acknowledge 26 May, which is Sorry Day, the day before NRW2020. Please read the AASW's 2004 Statement of Apology.
Everyone has a role to play in Reconciliation, especially in light of the Black Lives Matters protests playing out across the US and now in Australia. Australia has a dark history of oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for us to reflect on this history and to do better into the future.
Watch the video above to view the discussion between AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board Director Linda Ford and AASW National President Christine Craik. You can also listen to our podcast episode, everywhere you get your podcasts.
AASW and National Reconciliaton Week in the media
Social Work Focus
In 2020, we published our second Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander edition of Social Work Focus
In 2018, we produced the first Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander edition of Social Work Focu
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2019 - United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages.
Two podcast episodes on the subject with Candice Butler, our Queensland Branch Management Committee Member and Linda Ford, our director on the Board.
NAIDOC Week 7-14 July 2019 - Voice. Treaty. Truth
The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) welcomes Minister Ken Wyatt’s announcement this week that action will be taken to advance constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.
In line with NAIDOC Week’s theme: Voice. Treaty. Truth it is a significant step in advancing the voice of Indigenous Australians.
National Reconciliation Week 2019 - in conversation with Linda Ford and Christine Craik
Media release: National Reconciliation week 2019 – A time to walk together in courage
Published: 30 May 2019
AASW President, Christine Craik said “Reconciliation is about building meaningful relationships and working together for a more just Australia, and this begins with learning more about the resilience and achievements of Indigenous Australians. In the face of such great adversity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have persevered, and remain the oldest continuing culture in the world.”
Media release: Indigenous Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2018 - migration and movement
Published: 9 August 2018 Australian social workers today commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year’s theme is Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement.
AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander director Linda Ford said, “As social workers, we are acutely aware that the world's Indigenous peoples are often one of the most vulnerable, disempowered and marginalised groups in society." Full media release.
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples - yarn with Josephine Lee
Submission to Close the Gap Refresh
The AASW has made a submission to Close the Gap Refresh calling on immediate action and to extend the targets to include rates of children in out of home care. We will make the submission public shortly.
ABC NEWS Aboriginal children need loving, safe and culturally appropriate homes - By Christine Craik and Linda Ford
Recent arguments about the removal of Indigenous children from their families fail to appreciate the complexity of the issue. Reducing the debate to oversimplified understandings of the factors that contribute to the devastating disparity in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children will only further entrench this inequality. Full article here.
AASW MEDIA RELEASE: Australia Day should be inclusive of all Australians, says AASW
Published: 25 January 2018 - The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has today called for a national day which is inclusive of all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In a joint statement, AASW National President Christine Craik and AASW Director – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Linda Ford said:
“Every Australian should have the opportunity to celebrate our national identity, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.However, we must acknowledge that the current date for Australia Day makes it difficult for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to enjoy and celebrate, as for many it commemorates the beginning of Western colonisation and the devastation that this had on Australia's first people." Full media release
Victorian Parliament - Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria 2017
Submitted and waiting for permission to publish - In our submission we advocate for thr rights of children and express significant concern regarding the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection and youth detention system. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s December 2015 report on youth detention states that across the country, 54 per cent of juvenile detainees between the ages of 10 and 17 are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
Submission to Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory 2016
In our submission, the AASW is calling for a significant increase in services that recognises the fundamental right that children and families have to respect, participation and culturally appropriate supports. The AASW also expresses deep concerns about the ongoing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection and youth detention system.
Letter to the PM in relation to Don Dale and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in detention
AASW National President Professor Karen Healy AM and Dr Christine Fejo‐King from The National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association in a shared statement to the Prime Minister have called on the government expand the terms of the Royal Commission, as we believe it needs to be broader in scope, independent and in consultation with Indigenous Australians.
Media release: AASW supports Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report Published: 11 February 2016
The recommendations in the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s Progress and Priorities report will contribute to the overall goal to close the gap in the life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, says AASW National President, Professor Karen Healy. Read the full media release.
Grandmothers rally over high number of Aboriginal children in care: AASW in the media
Published: 11 February 2016: AASW President, Karen Healy, responds to comments from Child Protection Minister, Helen Morton in this article by Claire Moodie of ABC News. This week marks eight years since former prime minister Kevin Rudd said sorry to the Stolen Generations, but for two Martu women from Western Australia's Pilbara region, the national apology has offered little comfort.
Read the entire news story here.
Third International Indigenous Social Work Conference Darwin 14 - 17 September 2015
We were proud to be a sponsor of this National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association (NCATSISWA) conference. It brought together indigenous social workers from around the world to share knowledge, experiences and issues affecting Indigenous peoples.
- Read the NCATSISWA's latest newsletter which reports on the success of the conference
Living where I like - and loving where I live: a presentation by Indigenous social worker, Kylie Stothers
Kylie Stothers is a proud indigenous social worker in the Northern Territory and her inspiring presentation, Living where I like - and loving where I live, was delivered at the 13th National Rural Health Conference in Darwin in May 2015.
AASW resource: Preparing for culturally responsive and inclusive practice in Australia
Essential to social work practice in Australia is an understanding of the different cultures, practices, histories, knowledge, strengths and capacities of Indigenous Australians as well as the historical and continuing disadvantages experienced by this group.
Following extensive consultation, the AASW has developed the information sheet, Preparing for culturally responsive and inclusive social work practice in Australia. It aims to help and support internationally trained social workers as they develop the knowledge, understanding and practice approaches required to work effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
As the information is general and introductory only, we encourage all social workers to engage in ongoing continuing professional development about culturally responsive and inclusive practice in Australia.
Perpetual Calendar for Reconciliation and Health
This ACT Council of Social Service calendar includes significant dates and anniversaries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community throughout the year. View the calendar here.
Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Constitution
The AASW encourages members to be involved in the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution. One way is to visit the ‘Recognise’ website here and register your support. For more information, read the ‘Final Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act of Recognition Review Panel’ available here.
Introducing the AASW Reconciliation Ambassadors
Reconciliation is the business of all social workers, and is about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and non-Torres Strait Islander Australians talking and working together to achieve equality in Australia. An important strategy identified in the AASW inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is to progress the appointment of Reconciliation Ambassadors and champions.
The AASW Reconciliation Ambassadors:
- Ms Pamela Trotman (Northern Territory Branch member)
- Mr Andrew-James (AJ) Williams-Tchen (Victorian Branch member)
- Norma Tracey (NSW Branch member)
- Cate Osborn (NSW Branch member)
- Shiri Goldgamer-Hergass (NSW Branch member)
The AASW warmly welcomes and acknowledges their leadership to the profession and their contributions to the reconciliation agenda in Australia. The appointment of further Reconciliation Ambassadors are still welcome. For further information about how you could contribute as a Reconciliation Ambassador or to nominate someone, please refer to the Role Description or contact email@example.com
Joint World Conference Scholarships
The Board is pleased to have provided two AASW Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Scholarships for the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development held in Melbourne in July 2014. The recipients of the scholarships were Julieann Hall and Dameyon Bonson. Julieann is an Aboriginal woman, AASW student member and an AASW Reconciliation Taskforce member, in Broken Hill, New South Wales. Dameyon is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man and AASW student member in Broome, Western Australia. Dameyon and Julieann will share their learnings and experiences from the conference in the Spring edition of the AASW National Bulletin and on the AASW website following the conference.
AASW signs Statement of Intent on National Close the Gap Day
As part of National Close the Gap Day on 20 March 2014, Anita Phillips (AASW Board Director) and Glenys Wilkinson (AASW CEO) proudly signed on behalf of the AASW the Statement of Intent between Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) and its Member Organisations.
The Statement of Intent sets out our commitment to work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by 2030.
Photo: Senator Fiona Nash, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and AASW board director Anita Phillips at the National Close the Gap Day signing.
Aboriginal Board Director
Since 2011/12, the AASW Board has included the appointment of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Director. This position is currently held by Josephine Lee, an Aboriginal woman from northern Queensland, who has been working and living in Darwin for the past 15 years.
Commitment to Reconciliation
The AASW is strongly committed to leading and supporting reconciliation within our sphere of influence. The AASW’s vision for Reconciliation is to increase understanding across the Australian social work profession and more broadly, about the histories and culture of the First Australians, to celebrate their achievement and resilience and to develop meaningful relationships founded on respect. The AASW launched its Reconciliation Action Plan on 23 November 2013.
The Autumn (March) 2014 National Bulletin was a special Reconciliation edition.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AASW members were invited to share their social work practice histories, stories, knowledge and experience for publication on the AASW website. These are such important stories to be told.
In addition, non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AASW members were also invited to share articles regarding their contributions to reconciliation in Australia.
2004 AASW Statement of Apology
The AASW issued a statement in 2004 apologising for past wrongs committed against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the role of social work in these wrongs. Click here to read the statement.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social policy issues
The AASW has engaged in policy issues and presented submissions on a range of relevant issues. For example, the AASW endorsed the ACOSS position on the NT intervention in 2007, and presented to the Senate Community Affairs Committee in 2009. The AASW has opposed income management. The AASW also has position statements on Indigenous health and Indigenous education and training.
The AASW is connected to the following Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. We are also working to develop and strengthen our working relationship and partnerships with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and services as part of our commitment to reconciliation.
Indigenous Allied Health Australia
The AASW strongly supported the creation of the IAHA. AASW member, Kylie Stothers, is a member of the IAHA Board.
National Coalition or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Workers Association
The AASW strongly supports the work of NCATSISWA, a national organisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers. Together we promote the profession of social work within these communities and enable the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to access the knowledge, skills and networks of the profession.