By Barnardos Practice Development Centre

To support  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s cultural needs, Barnardos trains foster care, social and case workers to understand that culture is a powerful force that helps a child grow up with a secure self and cultural identity.

Identity is the result of individual stories built up over time. Nobody can give you your identity and nobody can take it away; it is something that only you can give yourself.

Cultural identity greatly depends on how well a child or young person is connected to their culture.  For children in out of home care cultural care planning is crucial to maintain a strong connection to their culture.

As caseworkers, we ensure a ‘blanket of cultural security’ surrounds a child while they are away from their birth family and culture. This cultural security can only be provided by people who are of the same cultural background as the child’s cultural heritage.

“It is up to the caseworkers to ensure that children and young people are supported by family members, community members and carers who are of the same cultural background as the child or young person” Ms. Popovich says.

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Providing cultural care to Aboriginal children and young people is about ensuring connections are maintained to Aboriginal community. In the case where a child in care is not living with a carer who is of the same cultural/ethnic background, caseworkers MUST provide cultural planning.

This includes:

  1. Ensuring regular contact with people from their culture (peers, community leaders, Elders, birth family and/or extended family)
  2. Ensure that Aboriginal people are supported to share stories and yarn up with the child about their culture and identity
  3. Ensuring knowledge is shared and the child has access to their culturally background (tribal area, mob, clan,  language group, totem, moiety, skin group, skin name)
  4. Putting in place strategies to ensure age appropriate cultural needs are met

Cultural identity shapes a person’s view of the world; in many ways, it forms an individual’s values and beliefs, setting them up for a successful future. Caseworkers, regardless of their own ethnicity, are responsible for maintaining these connections on behalf of the child during their time in care.


The Practice Development Centre (PDC) is a welfare service initiative of Barnardos Australia that champions guided practice case management as an important way to improve the welfare and outcomes for all vulnerable children, young people and their families.

They are committed to supporting case workers practice in order to achieve better outcome for all children in care. PDC release monthly practice articles and practical tips for workers. To read more about Cultural Care Planning and other practice issues visit the MyStory website.