Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University


The Indigenous Education Strategy (IES) Collection has been created in Charles Sturt's Digital Object Management System (DOMS) to support staff. There is a wide range of resources available in this collection, including original items created by Charles Sturt University, and images taken during our annual cultural immersion camps.

More information is available at the following links

To learn more, explore the Collection Help subtopic in the collection.

If you have any further questions, comments or feedback, contact Lloyd Dolan on 02 6933 2111 or email us at

  • Working with Communities
  • Additional Resources

Working with First Nations Communities

The importance of partnerships

There are well-established Guidelines or protocols available which provide more detailed advice on processes of establishing good working relationships with First Nations communities and agencies. Examples of these can be found at:

A fundamental principle in teaching cultural competence is the necessity of forming long-term working partnerships with First Nations peoples. This needs to occur on a number of levels - building relationships with external stakeholders, having a reference or advisory group to advise in a formal way on a regular basis, and including First Nations peoples in teaching. These partnerships with Indigenous people are essential to:

  • ensure that appropriate First Nations perspectives are represented in the course
  • ensure that the material is taught in an appropriate way based on cultural respect
  • model Indigenous and non-Indigenous professionals working in partnership, and
  • strengthen the credibility of subjects and courses both among students and First Nations communities and agencies.

If such partnerships do not already exist, good starting points include making contact with the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, staff from First Nations student support, community-controlled organisations, local AECGs, Elders groups or First Nations workers and professionals in government departments (for example, health, family and community services, or criminal justice departments). You can also contact the Academic Lead (First Nations Curriculum) in the Division of Learning and Teaching for advice (Lloyd Dolan, Make a personal appointment to see the relevant person/people and start with an informal conversation about what you hope to do. It is likely that they will support the initiative, at least in principle, and this could be the start of your reference/advisory group.

The reference group should ideally consist of local Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from a range of organisations. All of the members should have experience in working with Indigenous people or in Indigenous Education. Try to make the reference group fairly informal, especially at first, and include a meal and other refreshment. It is useful to provide some information in advance, and to identify questions or issues you would like addressed. As well as providing valuable advice about subject and course content and delivery, the group may also be a source of other useful contacts and possibly guest lecturers. Keep in regular contact with the reference group, keep them informed of progress, feedback to them the proceedings of your meetings, and give them opportunity to comment on the outcomes and change them if that is necessary. Remember that, in the interests of sustainability as well as short-term success you will want to develop a long-term relationship, so follow-up meetings, at least once a year, will be necessary.

It is desirable that the reference group and teaching team include people from the traditional language group in your area, but it is not essential that all of the First Nations members are from the traditional language group. Many of the First Nations team members are likely to originate from different parts of the country. While there will be differences depending on their place of origin, and these differences should be reflected in the subject and course content, there are also many commonalities of experience and approach which enable people from different parts of the country to work effectively together.

As we have indicated above, the establishment of effective working relationships with First Nations communities and agencies is a critical element in the long-term success of these initiatives. Many non-Indigenous professionals have expressed some concerns about how to go about this process - including how to  'do the right thing', how to avoid offending First Nations peoples by not understanding appropriate cultural protocols,  how to avoid seeming racist or paternalistic and how to keep a balance between exercising professional responsibilities while at the same time being genuinely consultative. While these are all reasonable concerns, they are issues which are relatively easily overcome and should not be seen as impediments to entering into consultative processes. In general, First Nations communities and groups are very keen to have their views heard on issues which directly concern them, and will enter into discussion and consultation with enthusiasm and good-will. The necessity of back-ground research (as you would entering into any consultative process) is essential and the process of consultation should be rewarding and productive.

The resources below are indicative of the wide range of information available for staff.