Essay on skills to work effectively with Indigenous Australians

The course's goal is to provide students with the knowledge and abilities they need to work effectively with Indigenous Australians in the field of psychology. To do so, we must investigate ideas such as culture, identity, belonging, cultural positioning, and social and emotional well-being. The majority of the work in this course will be spent on self-reflection and establishing an awareness of one's individual learning requirements.

Examine your understanding of "culture" in general (your own and others'), as well as your understanding and perception of Indigenous Australians (and be honest!). This is a time to look more broadly at the course Learning Outcomes (please see below) and consider your own personal needs in terms of knowledge you would like to acquire and develop throughout the course. It is important to be aware of your own attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in cross-cultural settings.

Course Learning objectives

On completion of this course, students should be able to:

Summarise the central characteristics of classical Australian Indigenous cultures and the implications for understanding of identity and self-concept

Describe the interaction between western and Indigenous cultures during the post-invasion period

Understand the psychological impact of colonisation on Indigenous cultures and people within human rights and social justice frameworks

Summarise the major demographic, cultural and social characteristics of contemporary Indigenous societies and cultures and recognise the diversity of these societies

Demonstrate familiarity with some of the major issues and strategies relevant to working effectively in Indigenous contexts

Reflect on the implications of this content for professional practice.


What would you like to achieve/learn during the course? What would you like to know about Indigenous Australia and people? Please comment in relation to both your personal and professional life/perspective.

My main aim in the course is to get a greater insight of the indigenous people in Australia. I want to understand their traditional lifestyle before civilization, the types of food they ate, and the economic and social activities they engaged in. At the end of the course, I would also want to understand the cultural, social, and demographic characteristics of the indigenous societies in Australia and how this changed after civilization.

I would want to learn about the various socio-economic and cultural practices of the indigenous Australian people, I will use this information to compare their experience with that of my traditional ancestral society.

(This section approx 100 words)

Week 1 – Culture, Psychology & Indigenous Australians: Past, Present and Future

Reflections on the Course - Please note – Indigenous students are free to discuss any aspects of cultural, community, family or kinship connections they wish to in the following questions.


After being provided with a brief overview of the course and some initial material, how have you responded to the information and what are your initial feelings about the course? (approx 25 words)

After getting an overview of the course outline, I developed the feeling of looking forward to learning more about indigenous societies. Most of the concepts were based on the Australian Aboriginals; I knew I would soon learn a lot regarding the various cultural, social, and economic beliefs of the people and how this has shaped the contemporary Australia.

Consider some of the language used from the Lecture presentation and material from Week 1. In some of the historical documents and text presented, reference was made to Indigenous Australians as:





“mentally inferior”

“stone age”



What was your reaction to the content; hearing/reading the historical documents and books’ depictions in relation to Indigenous Australians before and during colonization? (approx 25 words)

I felt annoyed when I heard the type of words used in the readings to refer to the indigenous people. Referring to the people as primitive or savages made me feel that the authors do not appreciate or acknowledge the significance of history and the people who shaped the society.

Many Indigenous people are now accessing this information and historical documentation for many reasons for example, to trace family and/or as part of other educational studies.

The impact of this on individuals, families and communities is immense and varied.

We will be examining the effects and impact throughout the course.

What do you know about Indigenous Australians? Please note – Indigenous students are free to discuss any aspects of cultural, community, family or kinship connections they wish to in the following questions.


What can you remember about the earliest times you met or heard about Indigenous Australians? For example was it at kindergarten, primary/high school, friends, at home (through your parents, siblings), family connections, workplace, media? What was said, implied, shown about Indigenous Australians? Was it positive or negative in its message? What do you think were the implications of these messages?

(approx 100 words)

I first heard of indigenous people of Australia while in high school. I used to think that they might have different physical features compared to us, and that their lifestyle is totally different. I pictured them to be at least 7 inches tall and huge. I also assumed that they must be living in caves or in the forests where they survive through hunting and gathering. My classmates also thought the same, and used to illustrate how indigenous people use stones to light fire. Other classmates always told us that the indigenous people are less in Australia and are very generous and welcoming. This made me to always wish to meet them some day.

After completing the first four weeks what do you think/perceive and feel ? What have you learned that has changed your perceptions or knowledge about Indigenous Australians?

(approx 75 words)

I have come to learn a lot about the originals. Unlike my previous belief that the indigenous people are naïve and have different physical structures, I have come to know that they are just like us. The course material has highlighted me about the social, political, and economic aspects of the Aboriginals which are not different from ours. In addition, I have learnt that the indigenous people living among us in the country, and not secluded in the bushes as I previously thought.

Comprehension of Reading

Start this section by analyzing:

Reading 1.01 –Clay, R.A. (2002) “Helping a Stolen Generation” in Monitor on Psychology

Respond to the following questions:


According to Clay’s article, what were the key three issues that contributed to psychologists’ growing interest in Indigenous Australians and psychology?

Deterioration in the mental health of the indigenous population. According to the author, community-oriented psychologists have noticed the terrifying mental health issues among the people, and as such aimed at providing psychological training in the communities.

The population was also noted to suffer from depression. According to Clay, Australian indigenous population is still struggling with psychological impacts through substance abuse, alcoholism, and violence.

The author also notes that the rising cases of self-harm and suicide among the population encouraged psychologists to study the population.

(approx 50-75 words)

Why did psychologists seemingly “get absolutely nowhere” when attempting to treat an Indigenous person in practice?

One of the reasons why the psychologists at the time did not succeed in treating the indigenous population was the fact that most of the psychologists did not have experience in the medical field. Some were sent fresh out from the university without any experiences at all.

The psychologists had also disregarded the integration of indigenous cultural practices and beliefs while treating the people. Lack of cultural sensitivity resulted in poor intervention.

(approx 50 words)

What does psychologist, Patricia Dudgeon say non-Indigenous psychologists should do in order to work effectively with Indigenous Australians?

According to Dudgeon, it is important that non-indigenous psychologists consider both the cultural perspectives and values of the indigenous people as well as that of themselves. She states, “they also need to gaze inward.” By considering values from both sides, the psychologists can provide better services.

(approx 50 words)

Weeks 2 , 3 & 4– Cultural Competence

You as a Psychologist – Comprehending Concepts

Start this section by analyzing:

Reading 2.01 – Weaver, H. (1999)

“Indigenous People and the Social Work Profession: Defining Culturally Competent Services”

This reading is in relation to a study conducted in the US to define culturally competent services in order for the social work profession to respond more effectively when working with Native Americans.

Consider this article in the context of Australia and the psychology profession and respond to the following questions:


Three areas of competence were identified for a practitioner to develop, in order to become ‘culturally competent’ working with Indigenous people?

Choose one of these and discuss in detail

A key area of competence that practitioners must consider in order to become culturally competent is knowledge. The components of knowledge include diversity, history, culture, and contemporary realities. It is important that social workers consider the significance of variation among the native nations in regards to customs, beliefs, and spirituality. This is because every client is always an individual who may possess or lack cultural connection (Brach and Fraserirector 2000). It is also important to have history knowledge in order to understand the Native American nations. This involves being away of history and laws that are related to the services offered as well as federal government and the policies put in place. History can also help in understanding the various psychological concepts such as racism, colonialism, and oppression effects (Brach and Fraserirector 2000). Cultural knowledge must also be considered which includes worldviews, communication patterns, values, and belief systems. With the exiting diversity among the indigenous population, the key cultural values that should be considered include spirituality, significance of family, respect for elders, and other issues related to mourning.

(This section approx 150 words)

Summarise in your own words, the concept of ‘cultural competence’ as it relates to the profession of psychology: (approx 75 words)

In psychology, cultural competence involves the awareness of the cultural identity and difference values or views of diverse communities through learning and building of varying norms. Being aware of diversity in the society can help in providing proper psychological aids such as therapy since the professional will be able to connect the various clients’ problems with the influencing eternal factors (Betancourt, Green, Carrillo, and Owusu Ananeh-Firempong 2016). The text identifies that the key components of becoming culturally competent are knowledge, values, and skills.

Can you identify what your areas of development may be in order to become a culturally competent practitioner? (approx 75 words)

I believe that there is need to improve some of my skills in order to become a culturally competent practitioner. I need to improve my communication and problem solving skills which include developing confidence and learning how to create rapport with clients (Betancourt, Green, Carrillo, and Owusu Ananeh-Firempong 2016). I must also learn how to interact with the diverse communities, especially the vulnerable groups who need specialized attention; such groups always need a lot of empathy. There is also a need to improve containment skills, especially patience which is important when dealing with difficult clients (Campinha-Bacote 2002).


Betancourt, J.R., Green, A.R., Carrillo, J.E. and Owusu Ananeh-Firempong, I.I., 2016. Defining cultural competence: a practical framework for addressing racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. Public health reports.

Brach, C. and Fraserirector, I., 2000. Can cultural competency reduce racial and ethnic health disparities? A review and conceptual model. Medical Care Research and Review, 57(4 suppl), pp.181-217.

Campinha-Bacote, J., 2002. The process of cultural competence in the delivery of healthcare services: A model of care. Journal of transcultural nursing, 13(3), pp.181-184.

Clay, R.A. 2002. Helping a Stolen Generation” in Monitor on Psychology.

Weaver, H. 1999. Indigenous People and the Social Work Profession: Defining Culturally Competent Services.

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