Aboriginal and Torres Strait Liaison Service
Cootharinga developed an innovative and unique role being that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer (ATSLO). The position commenced in 1995.
We employ an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer to support and tailor our services to meet the cultural needs, goals and aspirations of individuals from diverse backgrounds. The objective of the ATSLO’s role is to communicate and address the broader community issues of people we support from an indigenous background and ascertain their needs and aspirations for the future. To do this effectively, contact needs to be established and relationships developed and maintained with individuals and their families.
Links are also made with local cultural groups to establish stronger access to Indigenous community and mainstream services. This service assists individuals from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to reconnect and strengthen their connections to families by building positive and supportive relationships.
The ATSLO also provides our staff with Cultural Competency training sessions so that their understanding of cultural issues is well developed and they have the foresight to see that traditional western methods of dealing with problems may not always work with culturally diverse people whom we support.
A key element of our work in this area is to support reconciliation by assisting people with disabilities to reconnect to family; educating our employees on the importance of reconciliation; enhancing opportunities for indigenous people to work / volunteer within Cootharinga and engaging with other agencies and community on culturally appropriate events such as NAIDOC.
Cootharinga developed our inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan in 2013 in consultation with community elders, people we support and families and staff.
Recognising and celebrating our indigenous ancestors is important to Cootharinga as Individuals identifying as having Aboriginal and Torres Strait origins represent approximately 15% of the number of people we support. These individuals are proud of their heritage and are keen to share this with friends, family, carers, fellow housemates, and the local community. Cootharinga acknowledges our requirement to understand indigenous culture and customs and give consideration to these when developing and providing individual support options.
As part of local NAIDOC celebrations Cootharinga North Queensland hosts an inclusive and accessible festival style event that focuses on the achievements of indigenous individuals, especially those who have achieved despite perceived limitations. This event provides entertaining and informative displays and activities as well as the opportunity to enjoy traditional foods. This celebration promotes the awareness of indigenous cultures and traditions in a relaxed and entertaining environment.
This shared learning experience will empower individuals, carers and community members to appreciate our cultural differences and promote acceptance for all. On a more intimate level the awareness of cultural differences will allow Cootharinga and other support agencies to better cater to the cultural needs of the people we support who identify as indigenous.