Help your teen build pride in their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture

three aboriginal and torres strait islander parents carers smiling and talking to one young person

This article was produced through a partnership with Cox Inall Ridgeway, an Aboriginal social change agency. This article has been written and reviewed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Culture is central to our social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. If you and your young people are strong in your culture and can express it freely, you are more likely to be healthy and happy.

Our people have different levels of connection to culture. While many young people come from strong, proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, others may not feel as connected. Their limited connection to culture isn’t their fault. Within our communities, we have people who:

  • are members of the Stolen Generation

  • were removed from their families and placed with non-Indigenous families

  • are descended from families that were removed from Country

  • are from families who aren’t as strong in their culture, out of fear of racism.

There are, however, things we can do as parents and carers to help our young people get to know and feel connected to their culture.

Getting to know your mob

If they don't already know, a great place to start is to help your young people understand who their mob is. While there are similarities in cultures and histories across Australia’s 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, each of them is unique. Knowing our mob connects us to Country, kin, songlines, ancestors and histories. It allows us to know where we fit into the world.

Getting to know your young person’s mob can be a positive experience for the whole family. It can help to deepen and strengthen the relationships between you and your young people, as well as the community you’re living in.

These services across the states and territories can help a young person find out who their mob is:

If you’re unable to find your young person’s mob, you’re not alone. There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who don’t know exactly where they’re from, because the official records don’t say where people were taken from or where they were sent. If you’re having trouble finding this information, it’s important that your young person knows that they are no less a part of the rich cultural background, history and experience shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, culture and history

Connecting with young people through some of their interests can be an excellent way to develop their cultural understanding. Our community expresses culture through art, movies, music, theatre, literature, politics and other forms of storytelling. Many of these types of cultural expression by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are making their way into the mainstream. For example:

  • Yolngu singer and rapper Baker Boy sings in language and English.

  • Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs and artist Adam Hill (also known as Black Douglas) collaborated on a children's book, Our Home, Our Heartbeat, about the Stolen Generations.

  • Authors such as Anita Heiss write about contemporary Aboriginal issues.

Engaging with art and culture creates an opportunity to connect with our young people and to explore the exciting developments happening in this space. It gives our young people inspiration to relate to, as well as building pride in, our collective cultural identities.

For inspiration, check out:

For non-Indigenous parents or carers

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children often have non-Indigenous parents or carers who may have limited understanding of or connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and people. Developing an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history and beliefs will help support young people to build pride in their identity.

Reconciliation Australia is a great place to start some reading and learning. Their Share Our Pride site includes information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and myths from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective.

Each year for National Reconciliation Week, Reconciliation Australia develops ‘Actions’ for everyone to take part in. These actions help to educate people and challenge some of the ideas they might have about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They help people to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, at their own pace and without fear of judgement.

Reconciliation Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation available to everyone, but you can also connect with your state-based Reconciliation organisation. Through these organisations, you can find information on the Traditional Owners of the land and waterways in your state. You can also sign up to newsletters and events to receive information and find out what’s going on in your community.

Note: ACT, TAS and NT don’t have state-based organisations.

Additional resources

Below is a selection of online resources with tips on assisting young people to connect with culture and family, including resources for non-Indigenous parents and carers:

  • Be Deadly Online promotes online safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.

  • Raising Them Strong is an e-book for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander foster and kinship carers covering topics such as health, education, grief and loss, family contact and navigating ‘the system’.

  • SNAICC, the national non-governmental peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, provides resources for supporting connected and empowered children and communities.

  • Culture is Life is a national organisation that promotes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led solutions to help young people thrive.

Whatever your level of connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, you can help your young person connect with their history and culture. Building pride in who they are will improve their SEWB and help them to be happy and well.

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