Communities and Justice

Aboriginal Community Response

Aboriginal Community Response refers to a universal support system that seeks to strengthen networks of care and optimise community supports so that children can thrive. This includes providing support to reduce sources of stress, support responsive relationships and strengthen core life skills (1), delivered through a culturally embedded service system that is designed and delivered by Aboriginal people. They are the primary supports offered within an inclusive, child safe community.

Aboriginal Community Response services are embedded within communities, are accessible to families and are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal families. Services are expected to build and maintain strong partnerships as part of a local integrated service system providing holistic, culturally embedded supports. This includes strong relationships with Aboriginal communities and local Aboriginal governance processes.

Services within Aboriginal Community Response are offered on a voluntary basis with the free, prior and informed consent of the family or young person following a request for assistance. They also provide a safety net for step-down support from more intensive supports.

Aboriginal Community Response provides a ‘no wrong door’ intake approach that encompasses a broad range of supports including, but not limited to:

  • community education and awareness activities directed to Aboriginal families and communities
  • family supports and youth related services, or other similar community based programs
  • programs supporting expectant or new parents and their babies
  • transition to early learning supports and services
  • universal health care and immunisation
  • child and family services provided to Aboriginal children and families who are experiencing challenges and/or may be at risk
  • community engagement and development (including capacity development) in the specific area of child safety and child/adolescent development and growth.

Key roles and responsibilities

The service that is the first point of contact for families or the child and young person takes on a lead role in service coordination as a key worker (2) The key worker:

  • engages with the family or young person and community
  • supports the family or young person to identify their own needs, priorities and goals
  • supports the family or young person to develop their own support plan
  • coordinates universal services for culturally responsive and community based supports in a timely and accessible manner
  • provides a response role where outreach services are provided to families and communities to access referral supports as soon as possible
  • establishes links with other service providers to promote service inclusion and integration
  • records relevant data about intake, actions and outcomes achieved, enabling oversight by DCJ and Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms
  • seeks consent to share information to enable effective service coordination and integration.


Aboriginal Community Response services are provided to children, young people and families through self-referral and outreach activities or from more intensive services as part of a step-down response. Referral processes are:

  • flexible to allow children, young people and families to access different levels of support when they are needed
  • established to support children, young people and families without the need for a prior child protection report
  • streamlined to work with existing referral processes within Aboriginal communities so that families can be referred to the right services and supports before crisis occurs and to prevent escalation.

Key workers are expected to support an integrated response in partnership with other local services as needed.

Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making

Aboriginal Support Plans are established through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes where agreed to by families, empowering families to set their own goals, priorities and action plans. Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making occurs at the point of developing the support plan, and at review points, identifying achievements, changes to goals or priorities, or additional supports required.

Aboriginal support plans

The key worker works with the young person or family to establish a support plan to:

  • articulate goals and the actions to achieve them
  • identify and access formal and informal supports as necessary, strengthening informal ongoing supports as enduring strengths
  • actively support the family support plan to be put into action, including support to overcome barriers to access
  • provide ongoing resources and services until family goals have been achieved
  • actively monitor and review achievements and goals in partnership with the family.

Pro-active efforts

Services are responsible to provide active assistance to families and communities, supporting them to overcome barriers in accessing community supports and services by a pro-active and flexible approach to improving service visibility and accessibility. For example:

  • establishing soft entry points in informal, familiar and culturally safe environments
  • engaging directly with communities about the nature and design of services
  • using outreach and promotional measures that are place-based in communities
  • providing practical supports such as transport and child care and
  • utilising existing relationships and networks within the community to strengthen access.
  1. Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2017). Three principles to improve outcomes for children and families. 
  2. In this document, the term 'key worker' refers to a 'caseworker' within the voluntary Aboriginal Community Response tier.
Last updated:

27 Feb 2023